Balloon boy, never in balloon: "We did this for the show"

Father and now-found son
Father and now-found son

FORT COLLINS, CO (WCSC/AP) - A frantic search for a missing 6-year-old boy thought to be inside a wayward, homemade hot air balloon ended in the same place it began -- at the boy's Colorado home.

Authorities chased a weather balloon for two hours across northern Denver, believing young Falcon Heene was trapped inside. However, the boy was hiding safely in the family's attic. In fact, he was in a box in the attic the entire time.

"I played with my toys and took a nap," Falcon told a group of reporters outside his home Thursday afternoon.

"He says he was hiding in the attic," said Falcon's father, meteorologist Richard Heene, clutching his son after the ordeal came to a happy resolution. "He says it's because I yelled at him."

"I'm sorry I yelled at him," added Heene.

The story according to Falcon continued to adapt, however, and he announced in a later interview that he did it for the notoriety.

[See 6-year-old Falcon say "we did this for the show."]

The high-flying mylar balloon grabbed the nation's attention early Thursday afternoon, after authorities reported that the 6-year-old was trapped inside the experimental aircraft.

His brother had said he watched Falcon get into the balloon before he untied the tethers, setting it free. Heene later said Falcon was videotaped getting into the vessel by his brother, giving further credence to the boy's claim his brother was adrift in the balloon.

Once it was untethered, the saucer-like craft flew eastward from the Heenes' neighborhood, though officials couldn't immediately confirm how fast it was going.

Authorities said the 20-foot long, tin foil-covered balloon at times reached 7,000 feet above the ground while adrift. It was found almost 2 hours later in a field near Colorado Springs.

The story took a turn for the absurd when it was determined that Falcon's parents, science enthusiasts Richard and Mayumi Heene, were featured on the 100th episode of the reality show "Wife Swap" in March 2009.

Rescuers from across Colorado followed the balloon until it landed about 100 miles away. Authorities rushed to the scene of the landing, smacking the metallic balloon until it deflated. However, Falcon they did not find.

At that point, authorities were faced with two possible scenarios: Either Falcon never got in the balloon, or he fell out. Authorities began to fear the worst after reports surfaced that a box possibly carrying Falcon may have fallen off the balloon.

A Weld County Sheriff's deputy said he saw an object fall off the balloon, giving further weight to the belief Falcon fell from the balloon. There was no box attached when the balloon landed about 1:30 pm.

The Colorado Air National Guard deployed a Black Hawk helicopter and planned to launch a second, equipped with night vision if necessary.

Authorities backtracked over the entire flight path of the balloon, hoping there would be some sign of the boy, but found nothing. He seemingly had disappeared.

Then, Falcon turned up at home.

Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden said it's not uncommon for children to seek cover when they realize they're the subject of a massive search. "They hide because they think they are in trouble," he said.

The sheriff said the brother was interviewed several times by investigators and that he was consistent with his story.

Copyright 2009 by WCSC and The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.