FORT COLLINS, COLORADO // A six-year-old boy was found hiding in a cardboard box in his family's garage after being feared to have been aboard a homemade helium balloon that hurtled 80 kilometres through the sky on live television. The discovery marked a bizarre end to a saga that started when the giant silvery balloon floated away from the family's yard on Thursday morning, sparking a frantic rescue operation that involved military helicopters and briefly halted some departures from Denver International Airport. Then, more than two hours after the balloon gently touched down in a field with no sign of the boy,
Sheriff Jim Alderden turned to reporters during a news conference, gave a thumbs up and said Falcon Heene was at his house. "Apparently he's been there the whole time," he said. The confusion over whether the boy was in the balloon arose as the family tinkered with the craft on Thursday and Falcon's father scolded him for getting inside a compartment. He said the boy's brother saw him inside the compartment and that's why they mistakenly thought he was aboard the balloon when it launched. But he had in fact fled to the garage, climbing a pole into the rafters and hiding in a cardboard box at some point after the scolding. He was never in the balloon during its two-hour journey through two counties and the ensuing pursuit, broadcast live on US television.
"I yelled at him. I'm really sorry I yelled at him," the father, Richard Heene said, appearing to be close to tears and hugging Falcon during a news conference. "I was in the attic and he scared me because he yelled at me," Falcon said. "That's why I went in the attic." The Heene family are storm chasers who also devote 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. Mr Heene said the family had been working on a low-altitude vehicle that people could take out of their garages and use to hover over traffic. During a live interview with CNN, Falcon said he had heard his family calling his name. When asked why he did not come out, the boy answered, "You had said that we did this for a show." Later, Mr Heene bristled when the family was asked to clarify and said he did not know what his son meant. He did not ask his son what he meant by "a show". Sheriff Alderden is planning to meet with investigators today to see if the case warranted further investigation. * AP