(CNN) — Authorities in Colorado say criminal charges are expected to be filed against Richard Heene, a storm-chasing father whose giant Mylar balloon ascended into the sky earlier this week, sparking fears that his 6-year-old was aboard. “We do anticipate at some point in the future, there will be some criminal charges filed with regards to this incident,” Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said.

The saga captured the nation’s attention early Thursday afternoon, after authorities reported the family’s homemade helium balloon was set adrift, apparently with young Falcon Heene inside. Since then, speculation has mounted over whether the incident was a hoax by the father, who has appeared with his family on ABC’s “Wife Swap,” and posted videos of storm chasing and other activities online. Earlier Saturday, in an impromptu press conference outside his home, Heene told reporters the runaway balloon incident was “absolutely no hoax.”

The incident prompted a widespread search in northern Colorado that included law enforcement from several counties, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Colorado National Guard. It ended when Falcon climbed down from the attic above the garage at the family’s Fort Collins, Colorado, home. If the incident was a hoax, the only charge local authorities could press would be making a false report to authorities — a Class 3 misdemeanor, Alderden told reporters Saturday. However, a misdemeanor “hardly seems serious enough given the circumstances,” the sheriff said.

“We certainly want to talk to FAA officials and federal officials to see if perhaps there aren’t additional federal charges that would be more appropriate in the circumstances than what we’re able to do locally,” he said. Earlier Saturday, Heene emerged from his house and offered a cardboard box for the media to submit questions.

UPDATE: Sherrif claims balloon chase a hoax.

So what do DU readers think? Was this a not so clever hoax… or just a precocious 6 year pulling a prank. If it’s a hoax… what would be the appropriate penalty?

  1. bobbo, watching too much tv but surfed past this breaking item says:

    The kiddie’s statement is “almost” irrelevant. Kiddies are notorious for not making sense. You can see that when they grow into adults and still don’t make sense.

    There are two closely balanced elements here as I have somehow child like come to believe: the guy called tv stations before calling the cops==not good. Then, he allowed complete police access to everything including the kiddie==very good.

    On the balance, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not indicated. The authorities can still charge and sweat this family in order to create fear among the governed then drop the case if nothing further develops showing the even hand of justice. While doing so, they can stoke those rumors of spousal abuse, nice touch that I thought.

  2. Anomalous says:

    The appropriate reaction would be to ignore it…

  3. McCullough says:

    #2. Any idea how much the rescue operation costs the taxpayer? Just ignore it?

  4. Anomalous says:

    Search and Rescue operations occur frequently at taxpayer expense and that’s as it should be IMHO.
    That this was a delectably more outrageous scenario then your typical lost skier warranted it’s 15min.
    That a previous participant of the “reality” microcosm may have gamed the system is the systems fault.
    The only crime here is that there’s a speeder not getting ticketed because that sheriff has gotten sucked in to the folly.

  5. Somebody_Else says:

    Why do all the media outlets call this guy an “amature scientist” or “storm chaser.” He’s a discredit to both.

    This guy is into paranormal electromagnetic and psychic nonsense. I hope they throw the book at him, hard.

  6. Improbus says:

    The best punishment for this attention whore family is to ignore them and not give the MORE press.

  7. meetsy says:

    Next time they’ll make sure the kid is IN the damn balloon.
    ….Funny, how is it that physicists and balloon experts are NOW being quoted, when they say “no way, child couldn’t have been in it”… how come no one asked this when it was flying around…and everyone was hand wringing? Wouldn’t that have been more productive? Why did the news outlets freak out, and fan the irrational flames and make this a huge DEAL?
    Maybe with some of the information coming out now, they could have just have shot the damn thing out of the sky….and been done with this. I blame the news “media” for making this an event. Chicken little sky is falling antics are getting old. What next?
    Can’t the “reporters” do an honest job and actually report NEWS..and educate the public instead of playing to the stupid, lowest dregs of society for RATINGS.
    What have we become?

  8. sargasso says:

    Meanwhile, other UFO abductions in Colorado, went entirely unreported.

  9. soundwash says:

    #3 at least we actually have some validation and got SEE some “taxpayer” money physically spent on wait for it…taxpayers!! -as opposed to dumping trillions to prop up fictitious derivatives or some other lofty pie in the sky scam

    like i originally was obvious there was never a kid in the balloon.

    The newscasters seemed genuinely *unconcerned* and annoyed that they had to even report on this.
    -flipping on the tv revealed the same attitude from the tv land reporters.

    The balloon looked too small to carry a kid and did not look stressed from weight in the least. it was reacting far too easily to wind currents to be under load given it’s size.

    Were the chopper pilots so bloody stupid as to not figure this out upon seeing it’s size? -please.

    The whole event is at most, a psyop, and at least a distraction.. -esp if he called the TV stations first.

    WTF could possibly be so important about this that every news team on the planet wants an interview? I heard they even got an “instaspot” on Larry King Live..what the hell for?

    Regardless of what the kool-aid drinking DU’rs like to ignore, over the next 6 to 15 months, a lot of freaky shit is going happen that i gather, will send most groveling to the feet of their priest/rabbi/favorite deity, begging for consoling answers.

    Long story longer..there have been mass sightings of ufo’s and other oddities around the globe the past six-nine months that eventually, whoever is flying them will goof up and stumble into U.S. airspace [which no doubt, they all know is insta-death given the attitude of the religious cult that runs America and it’s Military]

    you know this attitude, -there is only ONE GOD and it’s the Pope..

    Given that this balloon started its flight at Fort Collins, i’m inclined to think it’s just another pysop to see how the lemmings of America would react.

    Given the way the whole event was covered, you would have to be pretty gullible believe this was the genuine article.

    This was done to do two things imo.

    1) to get us used to video of the national guard chasing ufo’s whether real or fake..
    2) to implant the expectation that anything they do chase, or that you may see, is probably just another balloon..with a kid in an attic somewhere..

    I’m not buying any of it..way too much coverage for a non-issue.


  10. Dallas says:

    > Pay for all the expenses +
    > Punitive charges of 2X above expenses +
    > 40 hours of community service for each parent

  11. ECD says:

    I have to agree with #10: criminal charges aren’t the answer; sending this guy to jail would only cost the taxpayer more! Rather, the family should be responsible for some amount of the cost of the search and rescue effort.

  12. blindedbyscience says:

    This is one reason kids need to be taught science
    and critical thinking skills. When they grow
    up to be adults and news anchors and sheriffs,
    they may need those skills.

    I had CNN on about 1 minute before calling BS.
    That thing couldn’t lift a cat. The day it
    happened I posted links to youtube videos
    of Mythbusters and the 4 year old girl needing
    3500 helium balloons to achieve enough lift.
    And a link to the video of the father ranting
    about aliens an Mars. This was blocked as spam
    on this blog.

  13. badtimes says:

    I’m with #10.
    My immediate reaction when I saw it- same as blinded. No way that balloon could lift a kid.

  14. chuck says:

    “We certainly want to talk to FAA officials and federal officials to see if perhaps there aren’t additional federal charges…”

    Why is it that the police seem desperate to file as many charges as possible? In this case, it’s a misdemeanor – it’s not a “federal case”.
    The only reason I can think of is that the local police are embarrassed that they were suckered by the hoax.

  15. jbellies says:

    I’m also with #10, Dallas. And maybe 75% of the shares in Heene, Inc.

    Criminal prosecution would be pointless, but it may be the only legal recourse available. If that is the case, I’d drop it. Though I’d put them on a 911 “Cry Wolf” list.

  16. bill says:

    A full length feature movie is sure to follow!

    Or, a series of childrens books!!!

    What if it was ELMO in the balloon?

    There would be mass suicides all over the world!

  17. Floyd says:

    Comment #1: I gave this incident all the attention it deserves–none at all. It still deserves no attention at all, and the reporters that covered this non-issue should be ignored.

    Comment #2: this incident has absolutely nothing to do with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Find some other picture of a person with balloons, please.

  18. Uncle Patso says:

    # 7 meetsy:
    “Can’t the “reporters” do an honest job and actually report NEWS..and educate the public instead of playing to the stupid, lowest dregs of society for RATINGS.”

    Apparently not. I haven’t seen actual “reporter” grade writing outside the op-ed page in over a year in our local paper. Not since Uncle Walter (Kronkite) retired on TV. Only online, and almost entirely from outside-the-U.S. sources.

  19. Mr Diesel says:

    I hope they throw whatever book they can find at the parents. Unless they make an example out of them more stupid parents will try to “fake” shit trying to get a reality TV show like the Heenes did.

    I’m pissed because I actually watched and listened to the morons covering the incident in hopes that the kis would be okay. After hearing that the balloon was only 20 feet across I knew no six year old could be carried in it.

    BTW Fox News Shepard Smith had it right, the little shit was hiding at home. He said that from the beginning all the way up till the end.

  20. The Monster's Lawyer says:

    A quick judgement and substantial fine with community service and get these crazy fcks off the tele.

  21. irr says:

    The kids statements were not “irrelevant”. The guilt of the parents was written all over the faces of the kids. Watch the faces of the other two boys when the littlest one says they “did it for the show”, their eyes bug out and look at their parents with a look of “oh no, he wasn’t supposed to say that, what are mom and dad going to do now”. Wolf got it out of them, people can learn from his technique. It was so easy to see the lying in the parents too. Glad to hear they will face felony charges.

  22. Glenn E. says:

    If this balloon really was capable of lifting a six year old, to an altitude of 7000 feet. Then by all practical definitions, it’s a manned aircraft. And certain federal rules very likely apply for it operation and use. And some serious rules and regulations were violated, by allowing it to break free, possibly with someone aboard. Hit Mr. Heene with those charges, and I’ll bet he will then deny that it’s anything more than a simple balloon. That couldn’t lift squat! And that he knew this all along. But thought the stunt would get him back in the limelight (on Tv).

  23. garage door repair denver" says:

    Guilty as charged! #10 is right, make them pay for all the expenses incurred in the search.


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