Oct 152009
Authors: Jim Sojourner

The 6-year-old boy believed to have floated across Northeastern Colorado in a makeshift helium aircraft was found alive at his home in a box in the attic Thursday afternoon.

With a smile on his face, Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said teams searched the house twice for Falcon Heene, but “obviously didn’t search thoroughly enough.”

“I didn’t want to come out very soon because I thought I would get in trouble,” Falcon said.

The boy said he was frightened because his father, Richard Heene, had yelled him earlier in the day for climbing on the homemade balloon.

“I’m really sorry I yelled at him,” Heene said through tears before kissing Falcon on the cheek.

Falcon’s brother said he saw Falcon climb into a battery compartment attached to the bottom of the homemade aircraft at about 11 a.m. before the balloon became untethered from the backyard of the Heene family’s Fort Collins house.

The craft — a Mylar dome 20 feet long and 5 feet high — drifted nearly 60 miles over the course of two hours at altitudes near 8,000 feet before landing softly in a dirt field north of Denver International Airport near Platteville without the battery compartment or the boy.

Foot and all-terrain vehicle search parties from numerous sheriff and fire departments were dispatched across Larimer and Weld Counties, and the Colorado National Guard provided helicopter assistance until the boy was found in the attic.

At one point, Weld County Sheriff’s deputy Jarod Webb said he saw something fall from the balloon, and officials were worried the boy had fallen with the battery compartment from the craft.

Heene is a known storm chaser and was building the craft himself. He said the craft was only intended to “hover” above

the ground, not to fly.

The Heene family was featured on the 100th episode ABC’s television show WifeSwap in March.

According to the show’s Web site, the Heene family “devote(s) their time to scientific experiments that include looking for extraterrestrials and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm.”

After hearing the news of Falcon Heene’s disappearance one neighbor said of the Heene family, “Given all the things they’ve done over the years, I wasn’t terribly surprised.”

Editor in Chief Virginia Singarayar, Visual Editor Aaron Montoya, Senior Reporter Matt Minich, staff photojournalist Brandon Iwamoto and staff photojournalist Sam Noblett contributed to this report.

News Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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