Patterico's Pontifications


Missing Boy Not in Balloon (UPDATE x3: In House)

Filed under: Current Events — DRJ @ 1:21 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

For the past 2 hours, the news has followed a Colorado story in which a 6-year-old boy was thought to have released the tethers and climbed into his father’s homemade flying-saucer-like balloon. The balloon drifted south toward Denver at varying heights, at one point estimated to be up to 6,000 feet high. Law enforcement, news station helicopters, and FAA sources tracked the balloon until it fell into a Colorado field — empty.

Fort Collins police are continuing their search for the boy in his hometown.


Looks like he was found in his house. In the garage attic. Where he had been all along. As Allahpundit says:

Dear police: Please search *every* room on the property before kicking off an int’l media feeding frenzy. Thanks, AP

The benefits of working all day: you get to find out that the boy was in the house all along before you even learn he went missing.

UPDATE 2 by DRJ — Reports in stories like this are unreliable but initially it was said the family called the media and it was media helicopters that were tailing the balloon. The incident forced disruptions and a brief shutdown at Denver’s airport. However, the authorities had some good ideas for how to get the balloon down:

“While the balloon was airborne, Colorado Army National Guard sent a UH-58 Kiowa helicopter and was preparing to send a Black Hawk UH-60 to try to rescue the boy, possibly by lowering someone to the balloon. They also were working with pilots of ultralight aircraft on the possibility of putting weights on the homemade craft to weigh it down.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much the search operation cost. Capt. Troy Brown said the Black Hawk helicopter was in the air for nearly three hours, and the Kiowa helicopter was airborne for about one hour. The Black Hawk costs about $4,600 an hour to fly, and the Kiowa is $700 an hour, Brown said.”

So should the parents have to pay for the “rescue”?

UPDATE 3: He did it for a show?

69 Responses to “Missing Boy Not in Balloon (UPDATE x3: In House)”

  1. That’s brilliant publicity, really. Also it would make a great episode of… jeez I don’t watch enough tv. Some show where you could send a kid up in a balloon and have drama and humor and pathos.

    I’m drawing a complete blank here.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  2. Is this a new spin on the old ‘Timmy fell down the well’ scam?

    I heard Sheppard Smith say these family had been on the Wife Swap program. Makes me wonder. There’s no door open on the thing, so I wonder how someone could have exited the thing and close the exit.

    What a crazy story.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  3. I’m glad he wasn’t in this balloon. I don’t think people can survive for long breathing only helium, although this might have been a mixture of helium and oxygen.

    DRJ (7fbae6)

  4. They should have sent a bunny up first to test. Or a small dog, maybe. I saw these dachshund chihuahua mix ones this weekend at the lonely lesbian lady’s pet shop where I get the turtle food and I had one all picked out and I was gonna name him Juniper but then I remembered there’s just no way to have a little wug wug in my building. It was pretty heartbreaking. Mostly for me.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  5. dachshund chihuahua…ah, one of those chili dogs.

    political agnostic (aba9ce)

  6. I’m also glad the kid wasn’t actually in the balloon, though I somehow assumed the cylinder at the base was not connected to the air cells (I have no idea, of course).

    But there was a second there, when I saw that thing zooming around, that I thought this was an awesome little devil. I know that’s wrong.

    I saw footage of the dad taking the kids into dangerous hurricane weather. I don’t want to question this man’s choices as father, but that’s a little zany.

    They still haven’t found the kid, and while I doubt that he was ever flying in the balloon or fell out in the air, I would like him to go ahead and come out of the attic now.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  7. Shades of ‘F-Troop’…. “It’tis ball-ooon!” Easy to distract the media with bright, shiny objects– especially when they’re flying saucer-shaped.

    I hope they find the child safely but the backstory this should spawn a Disney flick.

    DCSCA (9d1bb3)

  8. So, where is the kid?

    JD (c87796)

  9. well, here is hoping and praying that SOMEHOW the boy turns out okay. as far at the pet theory this is a hoax, i would say that if it is, we are probably well past the stage of them having filed a false police report or some similar crime. if it turns out to be fake, say thank God the kid is alive, and then charge the parents to the maximum possible.

    But i will point out that bad things even happen to people who go on stupid reality shows.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  10. Why, I was just discussing flying saucers with von Braun yesterday, in my boxers, of course.

    JD (c87796)

  11. A.W. – I would posit that bad things are even more likely to happen to people that choose to go on stupid reality TV shows.

    JD (c87796)

  12. Good point, AW. They wouldn’t have made it on air (if they were even on the show… I don’t believe everything Shep says) if they weren’t a little flaky.

    I was thinking perhaps the brothers were behind the hoax, rather than the parents.

    In other news, that was a totally sweet balloon. I’d love to release one over Kucinich’s backyard.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  13. > 10. Why, I was just discussing flying saucers with von Braun yesterday, in my boxers, of course.

    Okay, but how did von Braun get in your boxers?


    A.W. (b1db52)

  14. Good one, A.W.

    There has to be some high degree of correlation between people that go on stupid reality tv programs (redundant) and people that have bad things happen top them. Prolly approaching 1:1, if I had to guess …

    JD (c87796)

  15. If it only got to about 6000 feet, it didn’t go up very far, seeing as how the mean elevation at Denver is approx 5300′ above sea-level. Or, did they mean that it climbed to 6000′ over the mean?

    AD - RtR/OS! (caade8)

  16. 1 cubic foot of helium will lift about 1 oz at sea level. Assuming 6 year old Timmy weighs 50 lbs, the balloon materials and basket also weight 50 lbs, this would require about 1600 cubic feet of gas.

    This works out to a sphere of 14.5 foot diameter.

    The ballon I saw didn’t look that big, but there wasn’t much nearby for scale. I think it’s a hoax, but I suppose it’s in the realm of the possible.

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  17. AD, they meant AGL (above ground level). At least that’s what some journalist said.

    This appears to show something falling off the balloon. Would this mean that object that fell off was too heavy because someone was in it?

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  18. Air is thinner up there. So, objects are even less bouyant. I think takefive is right. But you never know if the kid was really light or the balloon was bigger than it looked.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

    Boy has been found. Alive and well and at home.

    The Emperor (0c8c2c)

  20. Well, what if it was a DIFFERENT boy in the UFO balloon? Ever think of that?

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  21. Did I hear it correctly that the kid was found in the attic? I think someone predicted that above …

    JD (5b6053)

  22. Glad the child is alive, but if this was some kind of bad publicity stunt, the parents should be charged.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  23. “He’s at the house and he’s fine,” said Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden, shortly after 4 p.m. “He was hiding in a cardboard box in the attic above the garage.”
    I kind think the boy knew that he was playing with something he had been told to only work on with supervision, and hid in an effort to delay the inevitable punishment.
    I sure wish I had had 6-meter diameter helium aerosondes to play with when I was six.

    Douglas2 (62fec6)

  24. Well, it was good TV while it lasted. Man, the idea of some badass kid soaring, alive, in some balloon, shooting his toy raygun at 18 wheelers, before landing and getting a wholesome spanking, was not the worst thing I’ve had to consider today.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  25. I sure wish I had had 6-meter diameter helium aerosondes to play with when I was six.

    Comment by Douglas2 — 10/15/2009 @ 3:34 pm
    Awwww.. Me too.

    The Emperor (0c8c2c)

  26. I sure wish I had had 6-meter diameter helium aerosondes to play with when I was six.

    Isn’t this a plane?

    TakeFive (7c6fd5)

  27. But that boy needs to be disciplined. A good ol’ little family talk.

    The Emperor (0c8c2c)

  28. “He’s at the house and he’s fine,” said Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden

    “However, we suspect that in 5 hours when the parents finish tanning his hide, he may be in some discomfort…”

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  29. If the kid has a soul, knowing what he just put his mom through is worse than any spanking.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  30. Was it not the fear of spanking that led to this episode?

    The Emperor (0c8c2c)

  31. And thus the sweet, sweet irony…

    Scott Jacobs (d027b8)

  32. “Some show where you could send a kid up in a balloon and have drama and humor and pathos.I’m drawing a complete blank here.

    Comment by happyfeet — 10/15/2009 @ 1:35 pm”

    Most of the TV kids of today don’t seem to get out of the house much. I’d go with Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

    carlitos (831ee5)

  33. So there’s still never been a for real test. I bet Juniper would volunteer. He looked to be a venturesome and brave little wug.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  34. oh. I’ve never see that one. YouTube is blocked here. Is that the Bill Bixby one? I think there’s like twenty shows I think are maybe the Bill Bixby one. I’ll imdb here in a bit.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

  35. I added Update 2. Should the parents have to pay for the helicopters mobilized to rescue their son?

    DRJ (7fbae6)

  36. DRJ – No

    [note: fished from spam filter. –Stashiu]

    JD (6cf6de)

  37. no. Shouldn’t have to pay. There aren’t better uses for those helicopters and such than maybe helping a little kid what is stuck high in the sky way up where you can’t even see him from the ground and he’s very scared you know he’s very scared and that could be your kid up there. It does people good in their little hearts, many of which carry a heavy dirty socialist taint, to see everyone stop and say a little prayer and watch the helicopters helicoptering to the rescue. It’s as transcendent and human and exciting as anything except for maybe alphabeat.

    happyfeet (f62c43)

  38. Should the parents have to pay for the helicopters mobilized to rescue their son?

    Comment by DRJ — 10/15/2009 @ 6:00 pm

    No. Unless they can prove they staged the whole thing.

    The Emperor (0c8c2c)

  39. Comment by happyfeet — 10/15/2009 @ 6:07 pm

    What happyfeet said about good uses for helicopters. The alphabeat’s actually pretty cool too; thanks for the link. A bit like Katrina and the Waves.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  40. Man, the idea of some badass kid soaring, alive, in some balloon, shooting his toy raygun at 18 wheelers, before landing and getting a wholesome spanking, was not the worst thing I’ve had to consider today.


    It’s hard to explain but there was almost something quaint about the episode (after the assurance of his safety, of course): A little boy hiding out because dad yelled at him, amuses himself by playing in the attic, takes a nap completely unaware that all havoc is breaking loose around him, and finally wakes up and makes his appearance because he’s bored. It just seems somehow refreshingly normal. No abuse, no abduction, no hideous horrible thing happening to him. Just a little boy being a little boy. I guess I’m so relieved the only reason the little boy was scared was because dad scolded him. And nothing more.

    Dana (863a65)

  41. When I found out the dimensions of the balloon I had serious doubts there was any kid aboard, as there just wasn’t enough available lift for it. And when it glided in to a gentle landing and there was no kid, I *KNEW* he hadn’t been on board and fallen out, as the thing woulda taken off like a freakin’ rocket when he left it.

    Can’t believe the LEO’s on the scene did not do a THOROUGH search. A real half-ass S&R response in an area that show know better.

    Glad the kid is OK and not a still little lifeless body somewhere. Hope it wasn’t an intentional hoax, for the sake of all those kids and what they would go through when the folks got prosecuted and persecuted. And if it was an intentional hoax, yes, they damn well SHOULD pay for every damn dime of the response effort. And then some. Real people needing real response could suffer because of those wasted and diverted resources.

    Tully (c2f070)

  42. I remember watching this family on Wife Swap (they were on twice). They were dysfunctional to say the least. The kids misbehaved constantly, they were rude, cursed, flipped people off, etc. This kid was hiding, he obviously knew his actions were wrong. The parents should definitely have to pay, since I have a hard time believing this was an accident.

    Watch their second appearance on the show here:

    Audacity (2fd5ad)

  43. curmudgeon

    happyfeet (f62c43)

  44. I just heard a quote from the father of Falcon, the boy that was thought missing, “we don’t ground our children.” Based on this simple statement, I think they should have to pay for the helicopters.

    Mike (3f961f)

  45. He was named Falcon? Awesome.

    carlitos (831ee5)

  46. That is a cool name. One of my friends named their son Scout. That is prolly a racist Injun name.

    JD (3086d2)

  47. One of my dogs is named Scout. One of the best literary characters ever…the dog, not so much.

    Dana (863a65)

  48. To pay for the rescue, take the whole family to the state fair, bind em up, and charge people a dollar a whack to paddle their asses.

    gp (cb5e61)

  49. carlitos, I agree with you on the name.

    I watched a few youtube clips… including one where the kid seems to admit ‘we did it for the show’ and the mother appears to be coaching him while the dad appears to be doing something to him physically to get him to keep his story straight. I saw another clip of this young boy on that Wife Swap show. He’s very poorly raised, and it will take an amazing soul to overcome that and have a healthy life.

    But I like cool names. It’s apparent that the father has put this balloon in a lot of his TV spots and wants very badly to promote it. There’s just no doubt in my mind that this is a hoax that the parents arranged. It’s not a very good idea to make everyone scared your vehicle is deadly, though. I don’t think he’s a serious entrepreneur as much as he realized that’s a good shtick to sell the public.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  50. I updated the post (Update 3) with another link regarding the boy’s statement that “We did this for a show.” Hopefully this was an innocent 6-year-old moment and not a family moment of truth.

    DRJ (7fbae6)

  51. You know, I always see kids emulate their parents rather than follow their general instructions. It’s not even concious.

    These parents are attention seeking stunt pullers. There is a music video of these kids on Ace’s blog that is just plain too sexual. The Wife Swap appearance is extreme even for that show.

    These parents have put themselves into a situation where this child, who likely values attention and has learned implicitly how to get it, will get much more attention if he is frank about his parents being jackasses. And they need him to instead play the stoic boring loser who hid in the attic, while daddy lies about his idiotic fake invention and tries to sell his book rights.

    Falcon might turn out to be a Blue Falcon, in Army parlance.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  52. There should not be a a music video of these kids on Ace’s blog that is just plain too sexual.

    happyfeet (f62c43)

  53. It’s called ‘Not Pussified’. You can see their balloon in that too, of course. I stopped watching it when one of the kids, in blackface, was waving at me from inside a commode.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  54. This is like discovering a lost John Irving novel.

    I love it.

    happyfeet (f62c43)

  55. Here’s something from 2007: Heene family, storm chasers.

    DRJ (7fbae6)

  56. Yeah, they should have to pay. and if it’s some kind of publicicty stunt they ought to be brought up on charges.

    JEA (53fe4f)

  57. JEA’s right. I do not like to second guess parents, but these parents are damaging their kids. And stealing public resources.

    I think in a few days, we’ll know a lot more about who came up with this and why.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  58. If Falcon was telling the truth, which I believe he was, Mr. Heene’s repeated interviews about how upset he is to be accused of doing this for a publicity stunt means that he’s calling his 6 year old a liar on national tv. What a dad!

    iamaxian (156518)

  59. Look on one hand kids say retarded things. its cute when its harmless, but it can create trouble fast.

    that being said, there is alot here that is not quite adding up.

    First, most 6 year old children are not even halfway disciplined enough to stay in the attic for 5 hours. period.

    Second, how the hell was it that this baloon was inflated and not fastened securely enough that it couldn’t be untethered by a 6 year old?

    Third, in the live family press conference yesterday, i didn’t see the father express either 1) anger that his son had been hiding all that time, or 2) any regret to have put everyone through that. anyone else see him say anything on the subject at that point.

    And some other questions.

    did the police search the whole house?

    When did it become obvious to everyone that the basket was not attached, making it impossible for the kid to be there?

    who told the media about all of this?

    and, btw, the father is kind of an idiot, too. you know what that baloon was for? he was trying to make a commuter vehicle. sorry, but wtf? a commuter baloon? Are they crazy? “Sorry boss, i can’t come in today.” “Why not?” “Because there is no wind.”

    Now knowing the stupidity of children it is wholly possible for this to turn out to be genuine, but needless to say the cops should turn their suspicion-meter to 11.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  60. oh, and now they have the father saying that he thinks humans come from aliens.

    which might explain the saucer shape of the baloon, eh?

    You know, there is only one thing to do. make them a regular on jon and kate plus 8.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  61. Isn’t this another case, like Jaycee Dugard, where a lot of trouble could have been avoided if the police would just do their job — search the frigging grounds! All of them, not just the ones that are convenient.

    Hank Archer (d8389b)

  62. Hank

    If it was a hoax it might be the case that they did search, but the parents did too good a job hiding him.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  63. Just adding another 2 cents.

    I agree with people saying that this is a total hoax. This family was on Wife Swap twice. Granted, Wife Swap casts family’s that are radical since it makes for good television, but this dad pulled stunts during the whole show. He did things no other people would do (he even assaulted a woman by throwing milk on her), they acted crazy, screamed, cried, didn’t discipline their children, etc. They pimped the dad’s science projects like crazy. This is a family who believes that the father was abducted by aliens and he actively tries to communicate with aliens. On the TV show, they showed this balloon several times. This is totally an attention grabbing hoax. Kids do say stupid things, but I completely believe this family told the boy to hide while they sent off the balloon. They probably didn’t expect to get THIS much attention.

    And the fathers excuses? PLEASE. Watch how they acted in either Wife Swap episode, the kid doesn’t care. He doesn’t cower down when disciplined. Why didn’t the family search the attic if it is so routine for him to hide?

    Too many questions, horrible answers, typical incompetent journalists who can’t follow-up with difficult questions. I have no sympathy for this family. Make ’em pay the “rescue” fees.

    Audacity (2fd5ad)

  64. Correction: Apparently Blitz did follow-up and according to LAist, the dad got defensive. Hmm..more proof they did it for a show? Or at least to grab attention for themselves.

    Audacity (2fd5ad)

  65. A.W. good point. The cops would know if they searched the place where the boy was eventually found. Might have a bearing on potential false report charges.

    Hank Archer (d8389b)

  66. Balloon got away by accident.

    Father told everyone that the kid was in the balloon so that it would be tracked and he could get it back.

    The father had to know that the small balloon couldn’t carry a cat, let alone a small boy.

    Harry Em (9179a8)

  67. We should not be surprised when things like this happen to people that volunteer to be on reality shows like Wife Swap. This is really kind of inevitable.

    JD (f304a1)

  68. > And the fathers excuses? PLEASE. Watch how they acted in either Wife Swap episode, the kid doesn’t care. He doesn’t cower down when disciplined.

    Yeah, you are right, that is fishy too.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  69. The important thing is everyone is safe and Halloween didn’t get ruined and we got to think about something other than the dirty socialist depredations of our little country for a little while. These balloon people are a lot more fun than many other people. I’d have them over for fondu if they lived nearby. Like with real peanut oil so everything was really tasty. And wine. I bet both of them would like a glass of wine about now.

    happyfeet (71f55e)

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