Boy thought to be in drifting balloon found safe

Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:21am EDT
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By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - An American 6-year-old set off a massive search-and-rescue operation and media frenzy on Thursday for fear he was inside a homemade helium balloon that broke loose and drifted thousands of feet above Colorado for hours before he was found safe at home.

Falcon Heene was discovered hiding in a box in the attic above his family's garage, hours after the odd silver contraption had deflated and landed softly in a dirt field, Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden said.

"Apparently, he's been there the whole time, hiding in a box, a cardboard box, in an attic above the garage," Alderden told reporters after a long and frantic day.

Falcon's older brother had reported seeing him climb inside a compartment on the balloon, which was built by his amateur scientist father and resembled a "flying saucer" spacecraft, before it floated away from the family's home in Fort Collins, Colorado.

U.S. cable news networks interrupted coverage of a town-hall meeting by President Barack Obama to broadcast live footage of the small Mylar airship for two hours as it soared some 50 miles east across Colorado, trailed by U.S. National Guard helicopters.

Authorities considered desperate measures to bring the craft down safely and, after discovering that Falcon was not inside, had begun scouring the countryside for any sign of the boy.


Speaking to reporters outside his home, father Richard Heene said that his older son had watched and videotaped Falcon climbing inside a box attached to the bottom of the apparatus.   Continued...

<p>Richard Heene reacts as he holds his son six-year-old Falcon Heene outside their house in Fort Collins, Colorado October 15, 2009. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>