Awful: Six-year-old trapped in runaway balloon; Update: Boy safe at home, found … in the attic

posted at 3:16 pm on October 15, 2009 by Allahpundit

The news nets are covering it wall-to-wall, which is a fait accompli under the mindblowingly sensational circumstances — child in peril inside pilotless homemade UFO!!11! — but still … sickening. Even if this ends well, the kid’s surely terrified, freezing, and fighting for air at that altitude. Unless and until they figure out how to get someone up there to save him, which seems unlikely given the clip at which the balloon is moving, there’s no reason to film it except to have the cameras rolling when it crashes. Here’s a live video feed if you’re curious. I’m going to stick with print media on this one.

I’ll update the post when something happens.

Update: The Beeb makes this officially an international news story. Looks like the Denver Post is your best bet for coverage, though:

The incident started this morning in Fort Collins when the boy got into the balloon-like device built by his father and it came loose from a tether.

9News has confirmed the balloon belongs to Richard Heene, whose son, Falcon, is on board…

Richard Heene is an amateur scientist based out of Fort Collins. He and his partners call themselves the “psyience detectives.”

Heene is a storm chaser who collects data to prove that rotating storms create their own magnetic fields.

There’s some question about whether the kid’s still in the balloon or not.

Update: Somehow, a bizarre story becomes even more bizarre: The Heene family once appeared on the reality show “Wife Swap.”

Update: The balloon is on the ground at 3:35 p.m. in one piece. Waiting now. The balloon itself is much smaller than it looked in the air. Frankly, I wonder if the kid could even fit in the small basket part of it or if he was bouncing around inside the balloon itself.

Update: The balloon’s empty. Good news or bad news?

Update: If he fell out, it had to happen shortly after takeoff, before the news channels were filming it. Which means, whatever his condition, he must be somewhere in the area around his home, no?

The cops say they’re sure he was inside at one point, so the “he never climbed in to begin with” theory is looking bleak.

Update: More info: Apparently the eyewitness who saw him float away was his brother. Commenters are speculating that that maybe the kid accidentally untied the balloon and ran away for fear of being punished, but if so, then his brother’s covering for him for an awfully long time amid a lot of police and parental pressure.

Update: Unless the cops are complete idiots, they wouldn’t have readily bought the brother’s story without a good reason to. The kid must have been completely, palpably freaked out when he described what happened.

Update: Conflicting rumors on Twitter at 4:20 ET: Someone says they’re searching a farm where an eyewitness spotted something falling, someone else says a local sheriff’s department now thinks he might have never been in the balloon.

Update: Caleb Howe cites a neighbor of the Heene’s as saying the boys were on the roof with a camera when the balloon went up. Which way does that cut? And was the balloon even big enough to lift a six-year-old into the air? It was 20 feet across with a five-foot basket.

Update: I didn’t hear it myself, but apparently a sheriff’s spokesman told Cavuto that someone took a still photo of “something dark” falling from the balloon shortly after takeoff.

Update: No wonder they think the kid was inside. Evidently there was a flimsy plywood box attached to the bottom of the balloon — and it’s missing too.

Authorities are searching for a box that was attached to the bottom of an experimental aircraft that took off from a Fort Collins home with a 6-year-old boy inside on Thursday morning…

Police say there are pegs on the bottom of the aircraft that indicate that a box was attached at some point.

Update: Any math/physics majors want to take a shot at calculating whether a 20-foot helium balloon could even lift a, say, 45-pound kid?

Update: Yeah, according to the sheriff, he was in the now-missing box.

Update: A sheriff’s deputy thought he saw “something” fall.

Update: The Denver Post’s got a photo of the falling object. More:

Bob Licko, 65, a neighbor, said he was leaving home when he heard commotion in the backyard.

He said he saw two boys on the roof with a camera, commenting about their brother.

“One of the boys yelled to me that his brother was way up in the air,” Licko said.

Licko said the boys’ mother seemed distraught and that the boys’ father was running around the house.

Update: You’ve got to be kidding: Cops now say there was no box/basket attached to the balloon in the first place.

While authorities search for a 6-year-old boy who was believed to be inside an experimental aircraft when it lifted off, investigators now say there was no basket on the balloon when it took off from his Fort Collins home.
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The boy’s brother had told authorities the 6-year-old was in the aircraft when it lifted off.

We’re reaching D.B. Cooper levels of mystery here. If there was nothing attached to the box, then either this is a hoax or the kid got pulled up while holding one of the tethers and then let go at some point. If it is a hoax, he’s been hiding out an awfully long time now, no?

Update: Waiting for details, but NBC says the kid is home and perfectly okay.

Update: You’ve got to be kidding. Some prank.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden told media in Fort Collins that the 6-year-old boy thought to be missing in a balloon craft has been found alive at his home.

“He was found in a box in the attic above the garage,” Alderden said.

The sheriff indicated he did not think Falcon Heene’s parents knew the boy was there; “They thought he was missing,” he said.

Falcon’s 9-year-old brother told investigator and his parents, Richard and Mayumi Heeme, that Falcon was in the “homemade flying saucer” when it went up.

Imagine if they’d sent the National Guard up there to try to rescue him and a Guardsman fell to his death. Million-dollar exit question: The cops didn’t think to check every room on the property before kicking off an international media frenzy?

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Prayers are ascending. If you pray, please start praying for the little guy now!

OmahaConservative on October 15, 2009 at 3:18 PM

I was watchingit for about a minute, only becuase it said at the top left “recorded earlier.” Like AP said, I do not want to watch this live. I have a 7 year boy and cannot imagine what that kid’s state is like inside that contraption.

WashJeff on October 15, 2009 at 3:19 PM

Co-worker says that it is collapsing. I hope someone comes up with something brilliant quickly. Please.

Cindy Munford on October 15, 2009 at 3:19 PM

The balloon will eventually run out of helium. The question is how much damage can be done in the process.

This is Colorado. The state has quite a few mountains and tall landmarks. Even if it manages to avoid smashing into one, the fall and being jerked around for hours could be deadly.

And now Fox reports: The balloon was never built to fly. The compartment the kid is in has a thin plywood bottom and can’t survive a harsh landing.

amerpundit on October 15, 2009 at 3:20 PM

If you’re going to build a ballon, why wouldn’t you include a way to descend? Not that a six year old is going to know how to do it, but still.

livefreerdie on October 15, 2009 at 3:20 PM

I think this can end quite well…as long as it comes down on it’s own or get rescued with a helicopter and a net. But if it tears, then I’m not sure of anything they can do.

therightscoop on October 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

God bless that child.

True_King on October 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

The father of the kid is a weather chaser according to FOX News.

cubachi on October 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

save the little boy. He’s having a good time now, but there’s not going to be a safe way to land it. Even though they probably can’t bring it down anyway. Fortunately they are in Colorado that is mostly flat.

ThackerAgency on October 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

This is awful.

Why is the boy in this balloon in the first place? Was it a science experiment? I can’t find any info yet. *praying*

conservative pilgrim on October 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

Fox News: Colorado National Guard is deploying helicopter to see what it can do.

The craft is currently at 8,000 feet and holding. It’s heading south-southeast. Within hour, the balloon will be in metro Denver.

amerpundit on October 15, 2009 at 3:21 PM

Has Obama begun negotiations with the balloon yet?

OR

Yeah. A balloon. That’s what they want you to think it is. I’m not falling for it.

lorien1973 on October 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM

I’ve camped many times over 10,000′. Breathing isn’t a problem for someone living in Ft. Collins.

I’m more concerned with him dying from hypothermia! It has to be cold in that contraption. They had better get to him quickly!

sadatoni on October 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Definitely looks like about 1/3 of the balloon has deflated. It’s tempting to say “good, maybe he’ll come back to Earth”, but he’s moving really fast, so that probably wouldn’t be good.

RightWinged on October 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Some have emailed Shep and suggested dumping something wet on top or having the rotors of a chopper overhead to blow it down. This is horrible. I can’t remember anything live on the news that broke while I was watching that scares me worse than this one.

OmahaConservative on October 15, 2009 at 3:23 PM

Official on Fox: Helicopters rescuing him aren’t an option. The balloon would get sucked into the rotor blades (or something).

amerpundit on October 15, 2009 at 3:25 PM

I’ve camped many times over 10,000′. Breathing isn’t a problem for someone living in Ft. Collins.

I’m more concerned with him dying from hypothermia! It has to be cold in that contraption. They had better get to him quickly!

sadatoni on October 15, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Agreed, the altitude will not be a problem until he reaches 15,000 feet or so. My house is located at 9,000 feet, many here in Colorado are used to living at high altitude.

The temperature might be an issue, it’s probably 20-30 degrees at this time of day at that altitude.

Norwegian on October 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Even if this ends well, the kid’s surely terrified, freezing, and fighting for air at that altitude.

What is the altitude? If it took off from Ft. Collins it would have been roughly 5,000 feet or so. I saw one report that said 2,500 (must have been Above Ground Level, or AGL) and another that said 8,000 (likely MSL).

The kid won’t have O2 issues until at least 10,000 MSL, and even at that altitude it will take about an hour or so for hypoxia to really set in. So if the balloon’s below that level there’s some chance that he could ride it out for an extended period of time.

BadgerHawk on October 15, 2009 at 3:27 PM

not an expert, but I think a helicopter anywhere near this thing would be a bad idea… I think maybe some small planes (like the type people stand on the wings of at shows), with some ropes/cables or some type of net to “catch” this thing and bring it down gently

RightWinged on October 15, 2009 at 3:27 PM

Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man. Horrible beyond words. I hope to God it comes out well, but I can’t watch. Little guys go straight to my heart in the best of times, but in peril? Aw, jeez. We need an angel wing cushion.

tree hugging sister on October 15, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Yeah altitude isn’t an issue at all. 10,000 ft? Pfft, I’ve gone skiing at higher altitudes.

I don’t think we used to use oxygen masks while flying until 18,000 ft.

But I’d wager it’s fairly cold up there. How long has the thing been air borne?

jhffmn on October 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Fox says the craft was never intended to fly. It was a weather tracking balloon. The area the kid is sitting in apparently isn’t that well attached to the craft, having only a thin plywood bottom.

Not good.

amerpundit on October 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Helicopters rescuing him aren’t an option. The balloon would get sucked into the rotor blades (or something).

amerpundit on October 15, 2009 at 3:25 PM

Not a chance. That would most likely be a nightmare for the kid and the helicopter.

BadgerHawk on October 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

I’m not too worried about the landing, unless the kid falls out… I can’t see where an opening might be on that contraption.

Shame the kid doesn’t have a BB gun.

Maquis on October 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

USAF PJ’s will save him!

Tony737 on October 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

This is horrifying! I can’t imagine what it must be like for his parents. Apparently, this was meant to be used for weather investigation. It was never intended for human transport so the compartment on the bottom is not very sturdy.
Fox has made it clear that they are broadcasting on delay so if there is a tragic ending, it won’t be shown live. God help them.

ExcessivelyDiverted on October 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Absolutely horrifying. Gonna grab my boy tonight and not let go.

ej_pez on October 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

I cannot believe my eyes.

milwife88 on October 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Two helicopters (at a decent distance) with a net between them? That’s the only thing I can think of, and I can’t think of how you would really do it–if the copters could fly tied together like that. Wow, prayer is looking like the best option. Fortunately, nothing is to hard for G0d.

smellthecoffee on October 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Supposedly the balloon is dropping altitude, so it seems likely that its coming down is not an issue…it’s a question of where, and how hard.

Additionally, reports indicated that the boy was toting a stuffed tiger with him.

MadisonConservative on October 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Test post…

AP you ban me for something?

Hope someone comes up with something brilliant and fast.

Rogue on October 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Fervently praying for him. I cannot imagine if this were one of my children.

NebCon on October 15, 2009 at 3:31 PM

Some have emailed Shep and suggested dumping something wet on top or having the rotors of a chopper overhead to blow it down. This is horrible. I can’t remember anything live on the news that broke while I was watching that scares me worse than this one.

OmahaConservative on October 15, 2009 at 3:23 PM

A blackhawk produces about 21,000 lbs of thrust from its blades. No way you could safely blow this thing to the ground.

BadgerHawk on October 15, 2009 at 3:31 PM

I actually wonder if this kid really is scared or anything. At 6, I wonder if he really even understands the gravity of the situation. I have a 6 year old niece and she’s incredibly smart, but I’m not sure she’d be in a panic over this, because I’m not sure she’d comprehend the danger.

RightWinged on October 15, 2009 at 3:31 PM

This is frightening, but I have a feeling that he will be ok.

DaveS on October 15, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Sounds like it was designed to hold instruments to chase storms…

Not good, its blowing towards the North Denver Burbs… ground is flat grassland and cornfields out where it is now… but at least the wind will be coming off the Mountains to the West… so it will be blown away from them…

Heck…. its actualy blowing towards the Airport sounds like…

Romeo13 on October 15, 2009 at 3:33 PM

Rogue on October 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Server update the other day, many interesting things.

Cindy Munford on October 15, 2009 at 3:33 PM

USAF PJ’s will save him!

Tony737 on October 15, 2009 at 3:29 PM

You remember the Cold War era balloon/aircraft extractions?

But you could very well be right, a PJ on a rope could snag the balloon…

Oh crap, powerlines!

Maquis on October 15, 2009 at 3:33 PM

Are we sure there is a kid in the balloon? Sounds kind of fishy to me.

bloggless on October 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

I don’t have sound, so I can’t hear why the balloon looks like its traveling so fast. I’m guessing it’s the effect from having a gyro stabilized camera on the filming aircraft, but can anyone fill me in?

BadgerHawk on October 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Police reports now say they think he may have already fallen out of the aircraft. This is simply awful!

Sultry Beauty on October 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Additionally, reports indicated that the boy was toting a stuffed tiger with him.

MadisonConservative on October 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Hopefully it was Hobbes. Hobbes got into trouble, but it always ended well.

The parents must be freaking out.

WashJeff on October 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Sounds fishy. Especially since the kid’s name is Falcon.

bloggless on October 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Looks like it is coming down very slowly. I really don’t want to witness the crash.

milwife88 on October 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Sh*t. He’s getting close to powerlines in a rural area.

amerpundit on October 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Is it Ascension Thursday?
Sorry bout that

Bevan on October 15, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Are we sure there is a kid in the balloon? Sounds kind of fishy to me.

bloggless on October 15, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Kids are stupid.

Maquis on October 15, 2009 at 3:35 PM

saved

milwife88 on October 15, 2009 at 3:35 PM

It’s coming down?

cntrlfrk on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

He’s down!

kingsjester on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

It came down smooth.

Sultry Beauty on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Just touched down.

Abby Adams on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

On ground!!!

tommylotto on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Let’s hope he’s ok.

TheUnrepentantGeek on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

landed safely…now is the kid in there?

AUINSC on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Its down!

El_Terrible on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

I wonder if the kid is green, or blue?

Maquis on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

is the kid in there?

bloggless on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

It’s on the ground.

fbcmusicman on October 15, 2009 at 3:36 PM

How much trouble is this kid in, if he’s not in there?

RightWinged on October 15, 2009 at 3:37 PM

BREAKING: He’s down! Some pedestrians on the ground grabbed the wire when he got close enough!

amerpundit on October 15, 2009 at 3:37 PM

…in a freshly plowed field, with a minimum of dragging.

Kralizec on October 15, 2009 at 3:37 PM

Why didn’t they just let the air out of the tires?

bloggless on October 15, 2009 at 3:37 PM

the scariest part is that if the balloon was not intended for human passengers, then i’d sadly have to wager that the entire thing is full of helium… asphyxiation would be the danger there…
*says prayer.

max1 on October 15, 2009 at 3:37 PM

That was an incredibly soft landing.

BadgerHawk on October 15, 2009 at 3:37 PM

Why won’t they opn the trap door?

milwife88 on October 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

BOOOOOOOOOOSH!

bloggless on October 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

They aren’t acting like he’s there.

exception on October 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

It doesn’t look like he’s in it.

Sultry Beauty on October 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Obama’s Cairo Speech does it again.

lorien1973 on October 15, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Where is the kid????

OmahaConservative on October 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

I don’t think he is in there. They are just standing there.

milwife88 on October 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Uh, oh.

No kid.

cntrlfrk on October 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

kid’s not there.

AUINSC on October 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Starting to look like he’s not in there

RightWinged on October 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Nope.

exception on October 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

Calibrated holes in the balloon to slowly release the gas. They can be fired from a gun on the ground. It’s not the safest thing for the child, but it’s better than the alternative of doing nothing.

DFCtomm on October 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

They’re just standing around. He may not be in it.

kingsjester on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

I hope he’s hiding under his bed with his tiger, laughing.

BadgerHawk on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

The balloon has landed. Is the boy safe?

cubachi on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Start checking abandoned wells! Or was that barns?

Maquis on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

This doesn’t look good.

wildcat84 on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

He’s having a good time now

Really? How pray tell do you know this? Is he having a good time if he has take a dump or leak? If he’s cold? If he’s hungry? If he’s scared?

He’s getting tossed around uncontrollably during an unplanned, unmanned flight in an experimental baloon not meant to sustain his weight. He may not understand the gravity of the situation. But, I doubt he’s having a good time.

Pray for this kid.
***

Nice it landed…where’s the boy?

The Race Card on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

the kid probably wasn’t even in it. He’s probably in the car where Einstein left him.

bloggless on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

If he is not in there, where is he? God forbid he fell out during the flight.

Norwegian on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Okay, who said he was even there at the beginning?

exception on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Calibrated holes in the balloon to slowly release the gas. They can be fired from a gun on the ground. It’s not the safest thing for the child, but it’s better than the alternative of doing nothing.

DFCtomm on October 15, 2009 at 3:39 PM

You’re a little behind the power curve.

BadgerHawk on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Local news report, not boy inside…

Romeo13 on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

No kid.

txag92 on October 15, 2009 at 3:40 PM

So, if he’s not there…do they think he fell out along the way? Wouldn’t the camera have caught that?

changer1701 on October 15, 2009 at 3:41 PM

The choppers are being told to move away.

Ultimate horror possibility: The child may’ve fallen out.

Let’s just hope he was never there in the first place.

amerpundit on October 15, 2009 at 3:41 PM

No boy is in the balloon

TimeTraveler on October 15, 2009 at 3:41 PM

PMSNBC is reporting the kid isn’t in there. Where is he????

OmahaConservative on October 15, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Let’s hope he was NEVER in it to begin with….

Sultry Beauty on October 15, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Yeah, only hope is that the original report is somehow wrong and the kid was never in there.

AUINSC on October 15, 2009 at 3:41 PM

I hate how the news anchors I’m watching keep referring to the father as an ‘amateur scientist’. Seems kind of cold considering the situation.

El_Terrible on October 15, 2009 at 3:42 PM

He amy have, God forbid, fallen out.

milwife88 on October 15, 2009 at 3:42 PM

Must be hiding in the basement at home.

OmahaConservative on October 15, 2009 at 3:42 PM

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