Oct 17, 2009 7:51 AM by Matt Stafford

Was the Flyaway Balloon a Hoax?

There are a lot of questions surrounding the family of the six year-old boy and the out of control balloon Thursday.


Falcon Heene has had a lot of attention since the fly away balloon. However, after comments on talk shows saying the family, "did this for a show," it had many people wondering if the whole thing was a hoax.


Friday, in a press conference, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said, "We believe at this time that it's a real event, certainly people are free to speculate," Alderden explains, "We have to operate on what we can prove as a fact and not what people want to be done or what people speculate should be done."


Alderden says he believes the family first called the federal aviation administration, then 9 News (in Denver) because the dad thought they had a helicopter that could help and then they finally called 911.


"Really what resources does the Sheriff's Office, the Fire Department or the Police Department have to deal with that (a flyaway balloon)," says Sheriff Alderden.  "In that aspect I guess it seems credible to perhaps think of who's got a helicopter or contacting the Federal Aviation Administration."


The 911 call recording shows panic from the father, Richard Heene:


In the call, Richard Heene said "He (Falcon Heene) doesn't know how to operate (the balloon)"


"He (Falcon) doesn't know how to operate?" asked the operator. "So that's (the balloon) gone now too right? We are sure that he's in that?"


Richard Heene responded, "Yeah, we looked everywhere.  Then my son just said he's terrified and said yeah he (Falcon) went inside it right before it went off.  We had it tethered; it wasn't supposed to go off."


Falcon was later found in the attic of the garage at the Heene's home.  Sheriff Alderden originally said Falcon was hiding in a box but today Sheriff Alderden is saying he was wrong and Falcon was not in a box.


As for the call possibly being a hoax, right now the Sheriff's Office is saying there's no proof.  Investigators talked to Falcon yesterday, without his parents present, and they say the investigation continues.


Richard Heene is saying that's not true and he has nothing to gain from it.


“What have I got to gain out of this? I'm not selling anything. I'm not advertising anything,” explain Heene.


Sheriff Alderden says if this is a hoax, the Heene's could face a criminal charge of making a false report, a class 3 misdemeanor, and possibly paying restitution to the agencies that responded.


"If it turns out to be a hoax we will seek restitution by any means that are available, but we have to be convinced and it has to be proven in a court that it is a hoax, not just speculation," Alderden said.


However, investigators will tread carefully, being cautious of the results.


Alderden explains, "When people have children legitimately missing we don't want people to hesitate to call us because they might get a bill."


The investigation will continue on Wednesday.

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