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Family denies runaway balloon was 'publicity stunt'

VIEW SLIDESHOW LARIMER COUNTY - The father of a 6-year-old boy who was believed to be inside an experimental aircraft as it soared over northern Colorado on Thursday denied Thursday night that it was all a hoax after it turned out the boy was hiding in an attic for around five hours.- Balloon boy gets sick twice during TV interviews - Rescuers describe scene before child was found/>

<"today was="" grueling,="" ok?="" the="" media="" had="" asked="" the="" sheriff's="" department="" these="" questions="" about="" this="" publicity="" stunt="" crap.="" and="" everything="" that="" i="" went="" through,="" everything="" my="" wife="" has="" gone="" through,="" i="" just="" find="" that="" just="" disgusting.="" it's="" absolutely="" appalling="" to="" me="" after="" all="" the="" crap="" that="" we="" went="" through="" that="" they="" would="" say="" that,"="" richard="" heene="" told="" 9news="" on="" thursday="" night.="">

Heene was asked about the possibility it was a hoax because of what his 6-year-old son, Falcon, had said earlier during a CNN interview. In the interview, when Falcon was asked why he didn't come out when he heard his parents calling for him, he said he was because it was "for the show."

"Perhaps he was talking about these guys out here, I don't know. They were asking him a million questions," Richard Heene said. "I thought he was talking about when the garage door opened up, all the media was standing there and he was showing them how he got in, I thought that's what he was talking about."

Authorities say the Heene family will not face criminal or financial charges after the massive search for Falcon Heene began around 11 a.m. on Thursday.

His family believed he was inside an experimental aircraft, which is a type of balloon filled with helium, after it took off from their Fort Collins home. The balloon traveled for 50 miles at heights of 15,000 feet going 20-25 mph. The aircraft was dome-shaped, 20 feet in diameter, and 5 feet in height and covered with foil.

"He says he's hiding in the attic because I yelled at him, and I'm really sorry I yelled at him," Richard Heene said on Thursday afternoon as he held his son, Falcon Heene, in his arms and gave him a big hug on Thursday afternoon. "He scared the heck out of us."

"It was a miracle to see him," his mother, Mayumi Heene, said.

Falcon had apparently hid inside a box in the home. At times he played with toys and at other times he took a nap. He came down after about five hours.

His older brother said he saw Falcon get inside the battery box of the experimental aircraft before he took off. He showed video of it to his parents and that's when they panicked, believing him to be flying away, high above.

"I was in the attic and he scared me because he yelled at me. That's why I went in the attic because I heard shouting. But I didn't want to come out because he was really mad at me and I'll probably get in trouble," Falcon said.

Richard Heene says he yelled at his son because he kept climbing into the experimental aircraft earlier in the day and there was a danger he could get electrocuted while he was in there.

The homemade aircraft lifted off around 11 a.m. and made a soft landing around 1:30 p.m. northeast of Denver International Airport and five miles east of Prospect Reservoir.

Rescue crews were on scene when it landed and they quickly searched the aircraft, poking holes in it to get it to deflate quickly, only to find no sign of Falcon.

When he was not found, there were fears the battery box had separated from the main apparatus during its flight with Falcon still inside.

After the balloon landed, crews searched a park southeast of the boy's home and an area around County Road 41 and County Road 28 after a Weld County Sheriff's deputy thought he saw something fall from the bottom of the aircraft.

Later, the sheriff's office says the box was still part of the balloon when it landed.

When the balloon landed and there was no sign of Falcon, Richard Heene says he was very distraught.

"That tore me apart. They only thing I could think of was that he had fallen out," he said.

He says they were sitting on the sofa in their home on Fossil Ridge Road in Fort Collins when Falcon came out and his wife screamed when she saw him. During the news conference, Falcon wandered away again and his mother, Mayumi Heene, went over and got him.

"You've got to stay with us," she said.

The entire Heene family seemed very thankful that Falcon was OK.

"This is a relief. We're going to watch them a lot closer," Richard Heene said.

In response to the rumor that it was all a hoax, he reacted strongly.

"That's horrible. After the crap we just went through - no, no, no," he said.

He says the experimental craft is meant to just float above the ground using helium.

Richard Heene says they don't ground their children.

"No, we don't ground our children, but we're going to talk to him," he said.

When asked if he hides a lot, Falcon nodded emphatically.

The family initially called 9NEWS and 911 around 11 a.m. after Falcon's brother said he got inside the balloon and detached the rope holding it in place.

"I heard some commotion in the backyard and then later, two of the boys were up on the roof of the house telling me something about their younger brother," Bob Licko, a neighbor, said. "There was a lot of panic in the backyard. The mother seemed distraught. The father was more in a panic."

Marc Friedland, another neighbor, says the family was planning an experiment on Thursday.

"I knew that they would be doing it. We did understand that this morning's event was supposed to be an experiment where the craft would hover for about 20 feet above ground. And so obviously it's an unexpected, terrible accident that it wasn't just 20 feet above ground," Friedland said.

Richard Heene says the aircraft wasn't tethered properly and that's why it lifted off.

The Federal Aviation Administration worked to track the aircraft on its radar tower and notified DIA during the flight. At one point, two helicopters with the Colorado National Guard were launched to help in the rescue.

The National Guard says it sent up an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter around 12:30 p.m. At 12:45 p.m., a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter went up with both observer and medical personnel on board.

Both the helicopters were recalled when the experimental aircraft landed, but the Black Hawk went up again as authorities searched for Falcon.

Authorities and 9NEWS, using SKY9, tracked the progress of the balloon as it travelled.

Shortly after noon, the Weld County Sheriff's Office said the balloon was seen two miles south of Evans, near County Road 46 and Highway 85.

Closer to 1 p.m., the aircraft was near Hudson.

DIA rerouted northbound flights as a precaution because of the aircraft. There were no delays or cancellations and the airport is back to normal operations.

Sky9 worked with Weld County officials to track the aircraft from the air beginning around noon.

Viewer Lisa Eklund sent photos of an aircraft in the air near her home on Saturn Drive, also in Fort Collins.

Richard Heene is a known storm chaser. During an appearance on the television program WifeSwap, Heene and his wife, Mayumi, focused on their love of science.

Last year, the 9NEWS Morning Show interviewed Richard and Mayumi Heene about their passion for storm chasing.Click here to read the story and watch the video.

Photos courtesy of Lisa Eklund/>

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