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

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.

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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