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Balloon Boy Found Safe At Home

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In Colorado, the six-year-old boy who was thought to have floated away in an experimental balloon has been found. He is safe and alive. He was at home, hiding in a box in the attic. For an hour or so this afternoon, the country's attention, or at least cable television's attention, was fixed on the silver aircraft swinging through the sky north of Denver. When the balloon floated gently to the ground in a dirt field, there was no one inside and the frantic search began.

NPR's Jeff Brady joins us from Denver. And Jeff, a very fortunate ending to a very strange story. What do we know right now?

JEFF BRADY: Well, we know that six-year-old Falcon Heene was never up in that silver helium balloon that we were watching float through the air this afternoon on television. All along, he was safe in his own house. As you said, he was hidden in a box in the attic over the family's garage. And that good news, it came at a press conference this afternoon. Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden was holding a press conference, talking about developments in the case, people they'd interviewed, that sort of thing. And then all of a sudden, he was interrupted, somebody said he's been found. And the sheriff left the microphone. He went to get more information. He came back and he said that what's happened here was really not all that unusual.

Mr. JAMES ALDERDEN (Sheriff, Larimer County): This is not the first time when we've been involved in searching for some child, and once the child realized these people are looking for them, they hide because they're afraid they're going to get in trouble.

BRADY: At times during that press conference, Sheriff Alderden almost started giggling. I mean, he could just barely contain the glee because people around here were imagining all sorts of horrible things when that balloon landed in that freshly plowed field and the boy wasn't found.

SIEGEL: But by now - I mean, this story, it reminds me of Walter Cronkite's definition of what is non-news, that is we don't report, he said, on the catch that don't run away from home.

(Soundbite of laughter)

That's after the fact. Earlier in the day, that was hardly the case. This story was dominating all of the cable channels.

BRADY: Oh, yeah. It was a really tense situation. It started around 11 o'clock this morning, Mountain time. A spokeswoman for the Larimer County Sheriff's Department says that Falcon and his older brother were playing in the backyard of the family's home in Fort Collins. And then the brother apparently came in the house and said that Falcon had climbed inside this metallic helium balloon that had been a family science project, it was in the backyard, and then just floated away. And that, of course, sent everyone into a panic. It floated around for about two and a half hours. It was going anywhere from six to 9,000 feet up in the air, traveled about 55 miles to the southeast of Fort Collins. And then it crashed in that field, and the folks went out there, tore - hold the fabric in the balloon and no boy. He just wasn't there, and that's when people really started worrying.

SIEGEL: You mentioned the family science project. This is an unusual family.

BRADY: It is. And they're really interesting. You know, they were - last spring, they were on the ABC television show "Wife Swap," very much into science and kind of the edges of science, extraterrestrials and that sort of thing.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Jeff.

BRADY: Thank you.

SIEGEL: It's NPR's Jeff Brady in Denver. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.