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Sheriff doesn't think runaway balloon was hoax

VIEW SLIDESHOWFORT COLLINS - The Larimer County Sheriff discussed a runaway balloon incident Friday, saying officials have no indication the family involved carried out a hoax with the flight. - Fort Collins community in spotlight over runaway balloon/>

Home video of helium balloon's release)

After Falcon came out of his hiding place in the attic over the garage, the sheriff's office said no charges would be filed and that the family would not be required to cover the cost of the extensive search efforts.

Falcon appeared on CNN's Larry King Live with his parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, and his two brothers later that evening. At one point in the interview when Falcon was asked why he didn't come out when he heard his parents calling for him, he said it was because it was "for the show."

Falcon's comments have fueled much speculation and skepticism over the balloon incident with many considering it to be a hoax.

Sheriff Jim Alderden held a news conference Friday to dispel rumors that the incident was a hoax.

"We were convinced yesterday after talking to the parents and having investigators on scene that the parents were being honest with us," he said. "If anyone saw some of the media interviews after the boy came out, it is very evident that the boy is very hyperactive to say the least. The suggestion that the boy was told by the parents to hide was inconceivable."

None-the-less, Alderden says the sheriff's office will conduct additional interviews with the family.

"[We are] going back to family [to] interview [them] to see if this is a hoax or a real event. We believe it is a real event," he said.

Alderden says interviews of Falcon's parents and his brothers will be conducted on Saturday. The sheriff cited fatigue, stress and Falcon's sickness for the delay in interviews. (Boy in balloon incident gets sick twice during TV interviews)

Alderden also says child protective services will be looking into the matter.

"Obviously with something of this magnitude and the situation as it is, we have contacted child protection services. However, we've asked them not to engage in discussion with the family until we've had an opportunity to try to re-interview them tomorrow," he said. "I suspect they will at least take seriously the information that we provide them and probably open an investigation."

Prior to his news conference, Alderden spoke with 9NEWS Friday morning about Falcon's comment on CNN.

"I don't know, after three hours of dealing with the media I couldn't tell you what he was saying at that time or what he meant. What I can tell you is that our investigators were there from the onset, very experienced investigators," Alderden said. "They can do forensic interviews; they're well trained at looking at body language... nonverbal communications to look for deception."

Alderden told 9NEWS the investigators on scene believed the incident was legitimate and not a hoax even after interviewing Falcon separately from his family.

"After the boy came out they did a forensic interview with the boy just between the investigators and them and they again thought that it was a legitimate thing from his perspective," he explained.

He did, however, admit to 9NEWS the child's statements to members of the media have cast some suspicion on the investigation.

"Clearly with the statements that were made last night we hope to re-interview the family and explore that possibility to try and get to the bottom of this and resolve it one way or another," he added.

In the news conference, Alderden addressed concerns that responding authorities had not thoroughly searched the home.

"[We] searched the house three times... went into crawl spaces [but] did not search the one where the boy was hiding," he told a group of reporters.

"Personnel didn't think it was possible for the boy to get there," he added in regards to the space where Falcon spent nearly five hours hiding.

Alderden also clarified that Falcon was not hiding in a box, as he first said on Thursday, but just in the attic area.

During the balloon's flight on Thursday, Alderden says his investigators contacted a professor at Colorado State University to make sure the balloon could actually carry someone Falcon's size.

"He informed us and reaffirmed that today that a balloon of that size filled with helium would in fact handle a payload of about 80 pounds. We believe the young boy who was missing was about 37 pounds so it was certainly conceivable at the time and remains conceivable today that the boy could have been in this device," he said.

9NEWS science expert Steve Spangler set up a demonstration on Friday afternoon to test whether the balloon could have carried Falcon's weight. After his test, he says that theoretically, the number of helium tanks seen in the Heene's backyard could have been enough.

On Thursday evening, Richard Heene spoke with 9NEWS about the suspicion surrounding the case.

"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," he said. "It's absolutely appalling to me after all the crap that we went through that they would say that.

"Perhaps he was talking about these guys out here, I don't know. They were asking him a million questions," Richard Heene continued. "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."

During his news conference, Alderden addressed the community's response, including the request of many that the Heene family face charges.

"Certainly from the e-mails and phone calls we've received there's a lot of pressure to do something and to charge these people with committing a crime of false reporting and to recover restitution," Alderden said.

"But that said, let me say again, as a law enforcement officer, a public safety official, we have to operate on what we can prove as a fact and not what people want to be done or what people speculate should be done," he said. "If this turns out to be a false report we certainly would seek restitution via the criminal component of restitution."/>

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