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Jane Velez-Mitchell

Missing Balloon Boy Found Alive

Aired October 15, 2009 - 19:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a story so incredible, so mind-boggling, ISSUES is devoting an entire hour to get to the bottom of it. If you`re just tuning in, a 6-year-old boy had us all fooled into believing he was in there, 10,000 feet in the air, in some homemade balloon.

Hours of intense news coverage, the whole nation watching. Family and friends thought he was dead. Amazing search efforts for what? Is it a prank?

Tonight on ISSUES, we`re going to go deep and try to figure out what really was behind all of this drama. A little boy scared of being punished? A family of storm chasers that seems to love a little too much excitement? In-depth answers you`ll only hear on ISSUES.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m so happy he`s alive. Jubilation tonight. Falcon, the boy in the flying saucer, is alive. We`re talking about the little Colorado boy who was the subject of a massive manhunt. He was feared dead or injured after a wild and bizarre drama that involved what appeared to be a silver flying saucer racing across the skies of Colorado, a contraption built by his dad that the boy had reportedly untethered and jumped into.

This afternoon, the entire nation got swept up into this drama when we all looked up at our TV sets and said, "Whoa, what is that?" It appeared to be a flying saucer zipping across the skies at a rapid clip. There it is. We were all watching it, the entire country, indeed, the entire world. About 20 feet wide, also five feet deep. Cops feared the 6-year-old boy was inside.

The nation collectively gasped in horror and terror as this nail- biting saga played out on national television, with the silver craft reaching altitudes of 5,000 to 8,000 feet. Soon, they had a Black -- Black Hawk chopper, an ultra-light aircraft. They were dispatched into the skies to try and rescue the boy believed to be inside.

Now, they even thought about dropping a rescuer onto the craft from a chopper as the family and the neighbors, at least, spoke out.


MARC FRIEDLAND, THE HEENES` NEIGHBOR: They`re great kids. They`re very well -- seem like well-adjusted, happy kids. They`re a great family. We`re -- we`ve been in their neighbors for about a year, and we`ve -- you know, they`re unusual, yes, of course. You know what I mean. You know, he`s sort of a scientist/inventor, and they`re storm chasers. They go after, you know, tornadoes and hurricanes and things like that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But then, the helium-filled Mylar craft eventually landed on its own. There you see it, slowly coming to the ground. Look at that guy running up there, trying to catch it, fearing that there`s a little boy inside. Oh, my gosh.

Then the drama began anew, because they checked that out, and word soon spread the boy`s not inside that thing. So he could be inside a box or a basket that reportedly had been attached with pegs to the bottom of this, what appears to be a space craft.

Then another mad search began, with law enforcement retracing the craft`s travels over more than 50 miles. There was even the sighting of something that appeared to have fallen from the craft and was feared to have been the child. At some point today, we`re going to show you a still frame of what appeared to be the space craft and then a little dot that some said was oh, maybe the boy falling out and flying to the ground.

And then one hour ago, approximately, a miracle of sorts. I say go for it. It`s a miracle. The little boy, Falcon, was discovered hiding in the attic of his family`s home, and the whole country rejoiced.


SHERIFF JIM ALDERDEN, LARIMER COUNTY: He`s been hiding in a box, cardboard box, in the attic above the garage. We don`t know why, but it`s not unusual. Sometimes we have these missing children cases, that they see all the commotion, they hear people looking for them. They get afraid that they`re going to be in trouble, so they hide.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Falcon had gotten into the box while they were playing with the balloon, and that`s what his older brother saw and told police, but he didn`t know that Falcon had gotten out before the balloon took off.

His dad was on a cell phone when Falcon suddenly walked out from the closet, and according to reports, Dad`s weak -- Dad`s knees got weak and he became wobbly. And he declared, "It`s a miracle." And it truly is a joyful ending tonight.

There are a myriad of questions about this bizarre craft and what it was doing tethered to the backyard of a family`s home, a family that has three young boys. Is that a good idea? Is that smart?

And what about this family itself, who`d appeared on the reality TV show "Wife Swap." Do they deserve scrutiny tonight? I mean, this cost a lot of taxpayer dollars.

I want to hear from you at home. You were watching at home along with me. What do you think about this entire drama? Give me a call. We`re going to take your calls tonight.

Straight out to my outstanding expert panel. Wow. I have to tell you, Mike Brooks, we cover so many tragic, horrific stories, and I`m going to start then with Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angel. We`re crime fighters together. We cover so many horrific stories. We cover so many stories where we find the child dead, where you and I and everybody at home is depressed.

I was so happy when I found out that this little boy was found alive. I don`t care. He`s a mischief maker, perhaps. But it`s just great to finally have a happy ending on this show when we cover a story, Curtis.

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELES: Oh, no question. As you said, everyone was on pins and needles, and I`m identifying with the young boy, because my son is 5 years old. And I know the kind of mischief he gets into. And I`m saying to myself, "Oh, my God, the parents, the family, they`re probably -- their entire lives have just been shattered, wondering what possibly could go wrong."

Although what a great father. Imagine to have this kind of space craft like Mr. Robinson "Lost in Space" in the backyard. My father, when I took the car at about 8 years old for a joy ride, did I catch a beat-down, Jane Velez-Mitchell? I still feel the pain.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, look, this dad is going to be something. We`re going to talk about it tonight. Suffice it to say, Lisa Bloom, his family is, well, I think we can call them kooky.

The mom wakes up in the morning and gets everybody out of bed by shouting, "Storm approaching! Storm approaching!" Dad calls the wife "Ninja Wife." And he is a scientist/inventor who has developed a special kind of magnetic bicycle. He`s also been looking for extraterrestrials. He is also described as a super-lenient dad. And on the "Wife Swap" description page, he`s quoted as saying there`s no such thing as safety.

How much blame or responsibility does he bear for creating this space craft, filling it with helium, and then tethering it in the backyard, when he has three young boys?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jane, I think you put your finger on the most important facts. Look, I draw a very bright line between eccentric and kooky, which is completely fine, and child safety.

You can come up with any crazy way to wake up your kids in the morning and call them a ninja and give them unusual names. That`s fine. And that`s nobody`s business to criticize that.

But when you put a child`s safety in danger, then it becomes an issue of community involvement. If they are taking children to chase storms, that`s an inherently dangerous activity that, in my opinion, should be reserved for adults.

If you have children, as we understand today so far from the facts that we know, going up onto the roof of a house unsupervised, untethering this hot air balloon that you`re looking at right now, a child is missing for many, many hours, I think it`s fair to ask the question where were the parents, who was the adult in charge, what was the level of supervision, what was the level of safety for these children? These are important questions in this case that so far, I just don`t think we have answers to.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re delighted to have with us on the phone Frank Real, a neighbor of this family. And I want to ask you, Frank, we`ve heard reports that there was sort of a commotion outside the house, that two of the boys were on the roof with a camera, that one of them had shouted, "My brother`s in the air, my brother`s in the air," as this space craft took off, that Mom was distraught, Dad was running around. Yet it turns out the little boy was in the attic the whole time.

What do you know, Frank, about how this all unfolded?

FRANK REAL, NEIGHBOR (via phone): First of all, I think it`s fantastic that he`s OK. And I -- you know, the same thing happened to me when I was a kid. I hid out when I did something with my dad`s car I shouldn`t have done. And I stayed out all night till he was gone.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You weren`t in a space craft. You weren`t 8,000 to 10,000 feet in the air.

REAL: They do build things. I built an experimental aircraft. I got a grandson. It`s a hot air balloon experimental. And...

MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. Do you take your kids out into the middle of a storm? You take your kids storm chasing and put them in danger?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on, guys. Hold on, hold on. I got go to grab my -- I didn`t think I`d need my gavel tonight, because it`s a happy story, but I guess I do.

Frank Real, is this sort of a hotbed of experimenters and inventors, this area, because you apparently are a balloon expert, and this dad here in question was building what to me looked like a flying saucer?

I have to tell you, I first looked up without the sound on. I heard a commotion and I looked up without the sound. And let`s throw up the flying saucer again, because I honestly thought for a second until I turned the sound on, "Oh, my gosh, there`s a flying saucer in the air."

What -- what was Dad doing building this contraption? What the heck was this for, Frank?

REAL: My grandchildren have been coming out since they`ve been five days old, sitting in the car, watching us fly balloons and growing up. And one of them just went to college up in Ft. Collins. That`s how many years they`ve been doing it. And they`ve enjoyed every bit of it. And I`ve enjoyed every bit of it, sharing it with them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. But let`s go back to this particular balloon. It`s 20 feet long, five feet deep. What was Dad doing building this? What was it for, to fly into the eye of the storm and gather data, as some reports have indicated?

REAL: This is an experimental thing you do. You try things, you see how they work. But he should have had -- should have done a better job of tethering it so that nobody could accidentally release it on him, or keep track of the children a little bit better. I do understand that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What`s the -- what`s the mood there tonight? I mean, there must be jubilation, really, in that neighborhood.

REAL: My whole family`s been calling, and we actually got -- we have a family home out there real close to where the thing landed.


REAL: Everybody`s really excited in that whole community, because they`re all into aviation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Only in America. I`ve got to tell you, only in America. But we`re so happy Falcon is alive. We have a happy ending to this story.

More on this unbelievable story when we come right back. You won`t believe some of the videos that we have of this family.

And we`re also taking your calls. I want to hear what you think at home: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

Coming up, an in-depth look into Falcon`s home life. Giant home-made balloons chasing deadly storms. Is this an adventure in science or is this irresponsible parenting?



RICHARD HEENE, FALCON`S FATHER: This little guy decided to keep going inside the utility compartment underneath, so anyway, this little guy got inside of it. I thought he did, anyway, according to Brad. Brad said he saw it. He said he videotaped it. We watched it back, and sure enough, he got in. But obviously, he got out.

So we don`t know. He says he was hiding in the attic. And because I yelled at him, and I`m really sorry I yelled at him.

Scared the heck out of us.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that, just moments ago, the father of little Falcon, and we believe that was little Falcon. A very emotional news conference just moments ago, the dad clearly choking up.

What an emotional story, because the terror that I think the entire country experienced thinking that that poor child was trapped inside that saucer, which had reached the levels of 8,000 to 10,000 feet, and at a certain point, you get deprived of oxygen, so we were all so scared. We`re so happy he was alive.

Let`s go over, Brenda Wade, psychologist, how children operate. Apparently, this little boy, Falcon, got in a box -- it was attached to this flying saucer -- while he and his brother were playing with the balloon. But that`s what the brother saw and told cops.

But apparently little Falcon snuck out before it took off, and then he said he was scared that he would get in trouble, because the balloon got loose, and that`s when he went and hid in the closet. How do children think?

BRENDA WADE, PSYCHOLOGIST: Jane, you are asking the most important question. Children are not miniature adults. I say that over and over. And the reason I say it is their brains are different. Their brains aren`t complete, and they won`t be complete until they`re about 22 to 24 years old.

That explains why we see a lot of behavior in children that just doesn`t make sense. They can`t do any reasoning. They can`t do abstract thinking: "If I do this, the consequence will be this, and then I`ll end up over here." They can`t put these sequences together.


WADE: They go, "Wow, look at this big, bright, shiny thing. I want to see what that`s all about." And the little boy crawled in it. His brother thought he was still in it.

And the brother, now mind you, doesn`t have a complete brain either, so he can`t think, "Maybe my brother got out of it." This is why God gives us two parents, Jane, so somebody can watch little people with incomplete brains and keep them out of trouble.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, it`s hard to draw that line between being an adventurous parent who exposes your child to a lot of interesting things and gives them the curiosity about life, and a parent who just goes overboard.

WADE: There`s nothing wrong with that. There is an issue here for me, because personally, I`m an adventurous parent, too, but I wouldn`t leave a 20-foot balloon, untethered or tethered in a way that kids could get into it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you. Yes.

WADE: You have to think for them, "Wow, that thing is probably interesting to them. I won`t leave it there."

BROOKS: Now, would you take your child -- would you take your children in a car into an eye of a storm as a storm chaser? I don`t think so.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Apparently that`s what he does sometimes. The whole family goes and chases storms, and again, these are young boys. They`re ages, I believe, 6, 7 and 8, or they may have had birthdays, but that`s how it`s being reported. So there`s a big question, and we`re going to dive into that tonight, because this is a teaching moment, as they say.

Let`s go to the phones. Boy, they are jam-packed.

Michelle, Oklahoma, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes, I just have a comment that I feel like the media and the people that are attacking this man for the things that he does, I used to take my children storm chasing. I`m a photographer.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How do you do that? How do you storm -- what do you do? You all get in the car and you say, "Storm approaching," and you head off toward the storm?

CALLER: You watch the TV. You go to college, you learn things about cloud patterns and things that are coming. You`re making it sound like, you know, let the little kid ride in a tornado or something.

BROOKS: If you`re a firefighter, are you going to take your kid to work and take him into a burning building? No, you`re not. You have to use your head as a parent, and putting your kids in danger...

CALLER: Now, but you -- you do teach your children about fire danger, and you teach them how to avoid things. And storm chasing...

BROOKS: You don`t take them into it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on. Everybody, got to bring out the gavel.

Let me move on to some of the video. We`ve got extraordinary video of this family that we`re going to play. This little boy`s dad, Richard Heene, has sent videos to CNN in the past. He sent us this iReport of him and his kids, including little Falcon, the little guy at the center of this drama, and the family was storm chasing. This was shot during Hurricane Gustav back in 2008. Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re the storm chase family. This is my brother, Falcon, and my mom with the camera. And we`re in the middle of Hurricane Gustav.

HEENE: Look at that. We`re right in the middle of the eye right now. It`s 10:44 a.m. This is the eye, and look how calm it is. We just went through some torrential rains and now, the rain`s starting to pick back up just a little bit.

What`s that? A truck blew over. That`s pretty cool.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Ten seconds, Dr. Kathleen London. Is this a family perhaps a little addicted to drama?

DR. KATHLEEN LONDON: I`d say so. You`ve already said they`ve been on "Wife Swap." They`re sending in video of "look at us out here."

You know, on the one hand, I guess I could argue that, if they`re going to go storm chasing, they figure they`re either all dying or something. I don`t know. I have issues with it as a parent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re going to leave it there, because we`re coming right back with more amazing video. This story for the entire hour.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take us up now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naomi would do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m sure she would. She probably wipes your butt, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, Karen has such an impact on me that I wrote you a song. Two, three, four.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m your new mom, Karen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I get this wet?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Karen. Karen! Karen, come on!


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. That family, the Heenes, tonight find themselves the center of the nation`s, indeed, the world`s attention. And as you see, they`re no stranger to television. The family has appeared twice on "Wife Swap."

And I`ve got to tell you something. Here`s a description, Lisa Bloom, of the family from "Wife Swap." "At home, the family are as chaotic as a twister. The kids have no table manners and throw themselves around the house, while Richard devotes every moment to his research. He expects Naomi, the wife, to cook, clean and run the house without any help.

BLOOM: You throw that one to me.


WADE: There`s a name for this guy, Jane. He`s the absent-minded professor.


WADE: He`s caught up in what he`s doing, what`s interesting to him. And I can`t feel anything but a certain sense of joy that we`re covering something that has a happy ending, which is great for all of us and great for the family.

But there is, as you said, a teaching moment. And I think Mr. Absent- Minded Professor, he`s going to have to teach his kids where the boundaries are when it comes to his equipment. No touching Daddy`s equipment without supervision.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brenda, look, let me go to Mike Brooks. You`re talking about a guy whose idea of scientific experiments includes looking for extraterrestrials and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm. Mike?

BROOKS: Yes, sounds like he`s been to Site 51 before, Jane. Or a couple of times. Probably in his mind and in real life.

But what does he describes himself, he`s a self-described obsessed science detective. I`m sorry, I was a real detective. What is a science detective? Is this somebody, you know -- look, you know, the bottom line is, and I`ve been saying this all night, Jane. The bottom line is it`s great that this little boy, this precious little boy, is safe and sound, but somebody needs to speak to the parents.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think the parents need a little spanking.

BROOKS: Yes, they do. And it looks like they haven`t made -- never met a camera they haven`t loved.

BLOOM: But you know what, Jane? There`s nothing wrong with being a science detective, being fascinated by science and bringing your kids into that kind of inquiry. That`s great. But we have to draw the line at taking your kids towards danger.

BROOKS: Thank you.

BLOOM: I don`t care if it`s...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let me see the panel. Let me see the panel.

BLOOM: It`s what you want to bring the kids along to do, it`s not safe. And guess what? It`s illegal to expose your kids to danger.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis. Curtis Sliwa.

SLIWA: Absolutely.


SLIWA: I want -- I want this family to adopt me, because I`m still a kid. I love this father and mother. Are you kidding? They`re active with their kids. These are three boys. You know what three boys in the household are like? One boy is bad enough.

WADE: Come on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis, listen.

WADE: You have to be a parent.

SLIWA: I am a parent. I`ve got a 5-year-old.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Come on, guys.

BROOKS: If they were out in the storm and the car overturned, we`d be talking about what a terrible parent he was.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The story had a happy ending but it could have had a tragic ending. It could have had...

SLIWA: Oh, come on. Please.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He could have been in that hot air balloon.

SLIWA: They`re having a good time, a great time. The father`s there, the mother`s there. These are interested parents. How many households don`t even have a parent around? They`re latchkey kids. What are you talking about?

LONDON: Excuse me?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hang on. Hang on, panel. We`re going to take your calls at home. We`re devoting the whole hour to this one.



RICHARD HEENE, FALCON`S FATHER: That`s horrible. I mean, you know, I can`t (INAUDIBLE) the crap we just went through, no, not enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don`t want to have to consider again that kind...

HEENE: We keep all of our experiments to ourselves. We go and log everything. We go to the desert, chase dust together as a family. Everything is tight. We`ve got an old flying saucer in the backyard now that we were experimenting with last year. This is what we do.


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: "This is what we do." That`s the Heene family talking to reporters, a dramatic press conference after a very dramatic day. And all of that commentary in response to a question, was this a publicity stunt.

But I feel, Cathleen London -- you`re a family practice physician -- given that a child was potentially in danger, it is our responsibility as journalists to ask this family some tough questions. And one of those tough questions is was this a publicity stunt, either consciously or unconsciously, in other words, he had some plan with this thing, and was that a responsible plan?

CATHLEEN LONDON, FAMILY PHYSICIAN: What was this child and his brother, who was only a year or two older, doing out there with no parent in sight?


LONDON: This could even get to the point where they didn`t know where he was. I`m sorry, that is not being a parent. I don`t care how cool you are. I have boys, we play together, we bike together, we do triathlons together. You don`t send them up on the roof or with a balloon that becomes untethered.

That`s crazy. That is not parenting. That is totally irresponsible. And you know, in this state, in Massachusetts, Child Protective Services would be there in a heartbeat -- in a heartbeat.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, want to go to Dick Napinski, an Experimental Aircraft Association member.

Dick, here`s the thing. There was a lot of taxpayer dollars spent on this. There was obviously a nation biting its nails. There were considerations of a Blackhawk chopper was sent in to hover above this craft. They were considering dropping a rescuer on to the craft to try to somehow get in there and get that child, because this went for more than two hours. So other people`s lives were potentially at risk here.


DICK NAPINSKI, MEMBER, EXPERIMENTAL AIRCRAFT ASSOCIATION: Yes. And what we had here was basically, it may have been an experiment but it wasn`t an experimental category of craft. There`s a very great difference between the two of them.

One of the things we saw early is there was no markings that indicated it was a registered aircraft or anything had been done with it. The first questions we had to have was what is the back story on this particular project? Was it ever intended to be an aerial anything or was it something that would be tethered to the ground.

So those were some of the early questions we had, and it was a story that just got more intriguing and even odder and odder as we went along.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think what you`re saying is if this was truly a valid experimental craft, there should have been some kind of registration, there should have been some kind of markings, it should have been tethered differently, it shouldn`t have been basically a giant Mylar balloon filled with helium.

NAPINSKI: That`s right. When you talk about experimental category aircraft, certainly people do build their own balloons, they build their own aircraft, but those aircraft are all inspected and they`re registered and have air worthiness certificates and go through a very rigorous process in order to reach that to be able to actually fly.

So that was one of the mysteries we had that -- and one of our balloon people here on staff had even said, you know, it looks like something I saw in Vegas a couple years ago that they did for a publicity thing, where they had it tethered and people floated up a couple hundred feet, then they brought them back down after five or ten minutes just to get a view of the Las Vegas Strip.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Two quick questions for you. Why didn`t it pop like a balloon when you send it up in the sky, eventually it pops, and why did it come down on its own, quickly?

NAPINSKI: Very quickly. First of all, the envelope where the helium was held was strong enough that it held it and then it got up in the wind and floated along. Eventually, it started to give way and the helium came out slowly which allowed it to just sort of float to earth, like a helium balloon would do sometimes when you just kind of see it lose the helium gradually and it will float to the floor -- very similar to that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I have to say that this is one of the most extraordinary stories that we have covered in a long time. And it`s doubly extraordinary because usually the big stories that we cover are tragedies. This is doubly extraordinary because this little boy was found safe and sound and nobody else was hurt.

But if you see that man running there, you see the drama and the level of anxiety and tension that this whole mishegash really created across the country.

I`m going to go to Char in Oregon. Your question or thought?

All right. Well, we`re going to get to her in a second.

Here`s what I`m going to do first. There is so much video of this family. Here`s Falcon and his two brothers in their kitchen. The family posted this video of these cute, they really are adorable kids, playing chef on YouTube. Watch the family at work.


FALCON HEENE: My name is chef falcon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is chef falcon and we`re making dessert. The dessert is called the Heene dessert. First, you take those, take those, take those, ok, put it right there. Take two of these. Put them right here. You take four of those and put it right here. Stupid eyes.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: They`re adorable children and obviously, their parents do care about them. We`re certainly not challenging that. All right.

We`ve got Char from Oregon on the phone. Your question or thought?

CHAR, OREGON (via telephone): Hi, Jane. Love your show.


CHAR: But this is an insult to you to spend this much time and all the people in the nation worrying about this when I think it`s the biggest hoax ever.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why do you think it`s a hoax?

CHAR: Because, even before you disclosed all these things about the storm chasing and their home-made videos and their reality show, they`re looking for a buck. And you can bet some important story`s going to go by the wayside to have their pictures on the cover of "People" and they`re set for life now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What -- that`s a good point.

Mike Brooks, do you think this family is going to try to sell their story, make a book deal, a movie deal, capitalize out of that. And if so, could the government say hey, you`re going to have to pay us back for all the money we spent today?

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: You know, after they do their investigation, Jane, they`re going to go in and take a look at all the aspects of this. I mean, the police, fire and EMS, they did what they had to do.

During all this was going on, somebody said on my Blackberry, can you say publicity stunt. You know, it seems like this family has never met a camera that they didn`t fall in love with. I think after the investigation, they`ll decide whether or not hey, you know what, you might have to pay back some of these assets, pay back for these assets that we expended today.

But they did what they had to do. Whether or not this is just, you know, the little boy, you know, being a little boy, we`ll find out, I`m sure law enforcement will.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa, the family seemed offended that they were asked whether or not this was a publicity stunt. But they have to know that given the bizarre circumstances of this, and the fact that we thought the boy was in this balloon, it turned out he wasn`t, then we thought he was in a basket that had possibly fallen out of the balloon or from the bottom of the balloon at God only knows how many thousands of feet, and there was this absolute massive and hysterical desperate race for this child, that somebody`s going to ask, "He walks out of the closet, how convenient is this a publicity stunt?"

I think it`s a valid question.

SLIWA, FOUNDER GUARDIAN ANGELS: I know, Jane Velez, and maybe you can bamboozle adults into that but how do you get the kids then to not say anything afterwards and to be complicit with that?

I think that`s wrong. I think for these kids, that was a dream machine on the roof. They had curiosity. They started playing with it when they shouldn`t have. The accident happened, the older brother says oh, my god, our younger brother`s up there and the kid goes and hides.

Jane, you know how many times I would hide from my father, my mother, because I had done something wrong and sometimes it would take a month of Sundays to find me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me do this.

SLIWA: That`s the way kids are.

Let me jump in here because most of us sat glued to our TVs as this whole balloon drama played out. The whole world was watching. Let`s face it, CNN, the entire world watches that. So everybody, beyond the American borders, was watching this. But not this police officer; check out his own dramatic experience today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like a mushroom just floating there. It was circling as it was coming down kind of like a parachutist would be as you see him landing on a field or something during a ball game. When it was getting close to landing, I just took off about a half mile run to get to the scene because I wanted to be there when this little boy was found.

It was just this really eerie feeling when you got on scene because the rescue vehicles had shown up and it was real dusty because they had driven into this field and they start pitch-forking it and using a shovel to deflate this balloon. Once they deflate it, they`re yelling into the balloon hey, we`re here to help you, we`re here to help you. And they use a pocket knife and they cut open this bottom part of this balloon, and they open it up and it`s like this cardboard round circular thing, and there was no one in there.

And everybody just kind of stood there, all these rescue personnel, about 20 rescue personnel were just standing there with a look of bewilderment. They had no idea what just happened.

It was one of the hardest things for me to see that we had followed this for such a long ways from Larimer County, (INAUDIBLE) into Adams County, thinking that there was a 6-year-old boy that was in this. And then when it lands, there`s no boy here.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What an amazing story. So many people deeply invested in trying to find this child, risking their own lives, racing desperately so it`s nothing to laugh about. We can be happy but it`s not funny. There`s a distinction.

Coming up, more in-depth coverage of this amazing story and we`re taking your calls. What do you think about all this? 1-877-JVM-SAYS. 1- 877-586-7297.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me tell you this. In my book I talk about an addiction to drama, but here, first is today`s winner, Sandy from Louisiana.

Several years ago, she had major back surgery, started taking prescription pills for pain. At the peak of her abuse, she says she was taking 25 to 30 pills a day. Take a look at her here. She`s passed out with her grandchild.

With counseling, she kicked the pill habit. Look at her there. She looks fabulous. She`s been clean and sober since march of last year. She`s lost 80 pounds.

Sandy, for sharing your story, you will be getting an autographed copy of my new book, "I Want" plus a chance to win a trip to New York City to visit me here on the set of ISSUES. And we`ll show you a real good time.

I have to say, this is a fascinating story and I talk about addiction in my book and I have to wonder if this family that was involved in this really bizarre story of the hot air balloon that traveled all across Colorado today. And we all thought that there was a little boy inside, trapped inside. Turns out he was hiding in his parents` home because he thought he was in trouble.

You have to wonder if there`s an addiction to drama somewhere in there with the family that has been on "Wife Swap" and hunts for storms and extraterrestrials. It`s a fascinating family. You got to give them that.

Angela, South Carolina, your question or thought, ma`am?

ANGELA, SOUTH CAROLINA (via telephone): yes. As I was watching it, it angered me more because I watched the replay of "Wife Swap" day before yesterday and it had them on it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re kidding.

ANGELA: And I couldn`t believe how much that they let these children do. I mean, they had no supervision, letting them jump from the banister of the stairs on to the couch, let them go wherever they wanted to in the neighborhood as long as they took the walkie-talkie with them. They could have been kidnapped.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I got to say, Brenda Wade, there`s something here. Everybody seems to be noticing it but we can`t necessarily define it. What`s wrong?

BRENDA WADE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: There is parenting here that is too lax, there`s no question about it. I don`t care about the adventure seeking or the drama seeking, all of that. That`s their prerogative as parents. Everybody has their lifestyle.

But there is definitely not enough vigilance in the parenting. There`s no question about that. We can all see it. And you know, I was sitting here thinking now, why would parents do this, and I`ve seen two things.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Maybe because they are children themselves emotionally?

WADE: Well, there`s that but Jane, a lot of times...

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Because they want their kids to be their friends.

WADE: A the lot of times the reason parents choose to be friends is because they themselves grew up with very rigid parents. And they think I won`t be like my mom or dad, I`ll do what I call a 180 and you know 180 degrees from sick is sick.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I love that.

WADE: So I think these parents may have gone too far.


BLOOM: Yes, but Jane here`s the problem.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think Brenda raises a very good point because it`s true. The children of hippies became some of the most conservative people you`ve ever met because they didn`t like growing up with permissive parents.

WADE: But hippies had very rigid parents, conversely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me go to this very, very briefly and then we`ll get to Lisa Bloom.

Our own HLN coverage got under way about 2:30 this afternoon Eastern Daylight Time, and this is a taste of it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Larimer County, Colorado, and there is a little boy in this aircraft that you`re seeing right now, 6-year-old boy, and they`re down to about 6,000 feet.

What they`re trying to do is get to this child. He floated away from his family`s home on an experimental aircraft.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is why the entire nation was terrified because we thought this little boy was inside that balloon.

Mike Fink, you have been so patient, Larimer County Search and Rescue. What kind of resources, and can you give us a guesstimate of what kind of money was expended by taxpayers in this kooky drama? Mike?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are you there?

FINK: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. What kind of resources were expended by taxpayers in this crazy drama?

FINK: Well, I work for Larimer County Search and Rescue, Incorporated, which is a volunteer nonprofit agency that helps to...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What did you guys do? Come on, tell me the story.

FINK: We were on standby for awhile, for about an hour, until they sorted out what was going on. And then we had to report to the house and that`s where we were going to start our searching from.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I guess my point, Lisa Bloom, is that a lot of money and manpower -- and I like to say people power, because there were women officers involved -- were expended. You`re looking at the video right there when it landed. Look at all those cops racing through the desert to get to that spot. Then you had the Blackhawk chopper that was in the skies sent by the military that was going to drop somebody ninja-like out of the chopper to land on this thing. That person could have missed and been killed.

This is not fun and games when other people get involved.

BLOOM: That`s right. That`s right. It`s clearly tens of thousands of dollars, if not more -- just taking a chopper up costs a lot of money and resources. Police did the right thing here.

A generation ago, Jane, if a child was missing, they might wait 24 or 48 hours before they even went looking. They respond immediately now. There`s a report, there`s a kid up in a balloon, as improbable as that might be, they are on it with the choppers, with 20 rescue workers on the ground and I say good for them.

But just quickly, if I can respond to this point about this vague thing we can`t put our finger on, look, as a mother, I like some dramatic stuff, too. I like to be on TV. I don`t bring my kids on TV with me because I don`t think that`s healthy for them. I think they should be allowed to have be children and have their privacy.

I like to climb mountains, run marathon, travel to third world countries, I don`t bring my kids because that`s not health for them. And I think it`s wrong for parents to include little children in dangerous activities that they enjoy just because they want to bring them along as their friends.

Children are different as a therapist has pointed out and our job as parents is to protect them and expose them to risk and danger in an age- appropriate way but not at age 6 when that kid can barely...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now wait a second, what I hear Cathleen London, when I hear this family, they look like good people trying their best but emotionally immature.


LONDON: Absolutely. He was age-appropriate. Again, my kids, I have taken them traveling including to third world countries. It`s how you do it and how do you it in a safe way and how you safe guard them. For them to have been unsupervised long enough for this to have occurred and the fact that they didn`t know he was...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hang on. We`re going to talk more about this devoting the whole hour.




HEENE: You were on the sofa yourself and my baby screams and he came out of here somewhere. Where did you come out of? Hello?

Got it.


There`s the little boy at the center of this national saga with his dad reunited but they were never far to begin with even though we thought that he was in that hot hair balloon flying across Colorado. He was actually hiding in the family home because he thought he was in trouble.

We`re so happy he`s alive. But it`s still a serious problem. Who should pay in terms of taxpayer expenditures, in terms of all of the nail- biting?

Take a look at this photo, it was taken from a distance. And I want you to look at the bottom left. There`s a little speck that you may be able to see it`s right at the bottom. All right, we should show it to you one more time.

But I got to tell you, the people thought that this boy had fallen out of the balloon and that little speck was him heading toward the ground landing with a thud on the ground and that`s why people were so terrified, Mike Brooks.

So even though it has a happy ending, it doesn`t mean that a lot of people weren`t put through hell.

BROOKS: Absolutely not. I mean, early on in HLN`s coverage today, a chief deputy had said that there`s a possibility he may have fallen out of the balloon.

I mean when they first called me and said, hey, here`s what we got, I said to myself, how are they going to resolve this? I mean, everybody just got wrapped around the axle today because you know, your heart was going out to this little kid, who we thought was inside of this balloon.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, did the Heene family think that this contraption would only hover only 20 feet in the air? That`s what a neighbor says, he says he saw the dad and three sons working on this balloon just this morning.


MARC FRIEDLAND, HEENE`S NEIGHBOR: I saw them working with it, with it this morning and they were, you know, having a -- basically the whole family was out there. And they were working with it.

And I went for a walk at around 11:00 or so and when I came back is when I found out that, you know, that the event happened. I do know because my wife had talked to Mayumi.

The craft was supposed to --- they`re experimenting with it -- they`re supposed to hover it around 20 feet in the air. And obviously, something went wrong with that. I don`t know -- I don`t know what happened but something made it -- obviously do a lot more than go than 20 feet in the air.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa the mad scientist/daddy miscalculated because it rose to approximately 10,000 feet in the air.

SLIWA: Yes, no doubt, but then again the whole family was working on this earlier in the morning. This is a family that played together, stayed together for the most part.

And you know when I tried to be Tom Sawyer and Huck Fin and make a raft and go out into the middle of a little bit of a tributary, we could have all drowned, me and my friends. Were you going to lock up my parents because we boys were trying to be Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn? No.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have some video just in, we`re seeing the attic were the little boy was hiding. Take a look at this. I don`t know where in the attic but he may have actually climbed to the top and hid.

This is what they do in the movies. They take the panels out of the ceilings and they hide. Lisa Bloom, I have to give you the last word on this one.

BLOOM: Well, with the name like Falcon I am sure glad little boy was not really flying. And I`m glad that he was safe up there on the rafters, didn`t come crashing through. This is a miraculous happy ending and you`re right, Jane, too many sad stories. Thank goodness for this happy ending.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s hope these kids grow up and win the Nobel Prize for science, but we`re happy they`re alive.

Thank you, fabulous panel.

You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.