Family describes fear, elation as balloon saga unfolded

Falcon Heene, to the left of his father Richard, said he was yelled at earlier in day for playing in balloon.
Six-year-old Falcon Heene was cowering inside the attic above his family’s garage.

He had gotten in trouble several hours earlier for playing inside the family’s homemade helium balloon and told his 10-year-old brother Bradford that he planned to sneak inside. Richard Heene, the boys’ father, had walked away for just a minute when the tether became undone, causing the balloon to begin floating miles above the house, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer as he sat next to his family on Thursday’s broadcast of “Larry King Live.” It shocked the couple, who began arguing and screaming, trying to figure out what happened. The balloon — a family experiment for the couple’s anniversary — was not supposed to go higher than 20 feet above the ground, Mayumi Heene said. The eventual goal, her husband said, was for the balloon to hover over the ground and help ease commutes. But as the balloon continued to drift higher and further out of sight, the family’s worries grew. Watch the family describe how balloon ordeal unfolded As police, the National Guard and the media scrambled to figure out what happened, Falcon ran into the attic above the garage. “The reason why I went up there — my dad yelled at me,” Falcon Heene said. “He didn’t want me to play in the flying saucer.”

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His parents, meanwhile, frantically searched anywhere they could think of. “We searched any place, even small drawers,” Mayumi Heene said. “We searched his friends’ houses. … We went through any possible place.” Falcon, meanwhile, was playing inside a box in the attic. His parents shouted his name as they ran through the house. “Uh-huh,” the boy said, when asked whether he heard them. His parents both appeared surprised and asked why he didn’t come out. “You guys said we did this for the show,” the boy said. When his father was pressed about what his son meant, he became uncomfortable, finally saying he was “appalled” by the question. He added Falcon was likely referring to all the media coverage. Authorities say they believe the case was genuine. Richard Heene said his family grew even more frantic after they couldn’t find him in the house. They thought he was inside the balloon or had fallen out at one point. Then, as millions worldwide watched, the balloon touched down. “They said he wasn’t in there,” Richard Heene said as he began to tear up. “You know, I just kind of lost it at that point.” They knew he wasn’t aboard the balloon, but speculation grew that Falcon may have been inside a separate basket that was attached at the bottom. Fearful, the family gathered in house, trying to gain their composure. “We were sitting on the couch, [and] some of the folks were in the room trying to help us calm our nerves,” Richard Heene said. “And my wife, I heard her scream. Falcon came around the corner. I dropped to my knees. I screamed, you know, here he is. He is safe. And he’s alive. It was a great moment.” Richard Heene said his son Falcon has done things like this before — just not on such a grand scale. “Whenever we tell him things like, you know, it’s a bad thing to do, he does go and hide,” he said.

He said that he normally knows his kid’s hiding spots, but not this time. “He scared the daylights out of us,” Richard Heene said. After a couple of hours of time to cool down, he sat down and talked with his son. “I just asked him to please never do that again.”