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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Heene Family

Aired October 15, 2009 - 21:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, GUEST HOST: Tonight, the runaway balloon drama -- a 6-year-old boy feared to be on board, maybe plunging to his death out of the swiftly moving craft. The child named Falcon the focus of air and ground search efforts and a captivated nationwide TV audience. The three hour ordeal lived by his desperate family has a happy ending.

They're all here next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer sitting in for Larry tonight.

We want to go right out to Fort Collins, Colorado right now, to the very happy family. There you see that beautiful family standing by. Richard and Mayumi Heene, they are here, and their three boys, Falcon -- he's the 6-year-old sitting next to his dad; Bradford is 10, Riu is eight.

Congratulations to all of you.

All of us are so excited that little Falcon is fine, because so much of -- so many of us all over the country today were deeply worried that he was stuck in that balloon. That balloon was out of control, simply flying around the skies of Colorado for a couple of hours.

Fortunately, he was hiding out in the garage attic the whole time in a box.

Richard, walk us through slowly but surely, what exactly happened to Falcon today and how all of this got so way, way out of control.

RICHARD HEENE, BALLOON BOY'S DAD: OK. Yes, so we were setting up our family experiment for my wife and I's anniversary. It's a good excuse. And, anyway the kids helped to actually construct the saucer- looking craft. We had glued panels of plastic wood and, you know, they helped paint it. And the experiment was for one of our family inventions. And we're trying to build a craft to where people can no longer drive in their car and just kind of elevate and float to work at 50 to 100 feet off the ground.

BLITZER: And you were doing this in your back...

R. HEENE: But...

BLITZER: And you were doing this in your backyard?

R. HEENE: That's correct. Yes, we did this in our backyard. And anyway, so we started inflating it with helium, which keeps it buoyant, so we could conduct the -- the high voltage experiments. The outer skin of this thing had -- had aluminum foil on it for a positive charge and a negative charge. And you ignite this thing and it kind of gets you to go left and right, horizontal.

But I explained it to all the kids. They actually taped on the high voltage signs earlier, so they knew it was high voltage and they can't touch it.

BLITZER: With the balloon tethered to the ground?

R. HEENE: Well, that's kind of questionable. Yes, it's supposed to be tethered. It was -- I saw the tethers. I didn't inspect the tethers. My wife actually tied them down. She said she tied them, so I had to, you know, go by what she said.


R. HEENE: But it was supposed to be tethered to where it would levitate 20 feet up. And we explained to the kids that that's what was going to take place.

BLITZER: So the three little boys were...

R. HEENE: And...

BLITZER: ...were playing with this balloon on the ground.

Then what happened?

R. HEENE: Well, as we were inflating it, they were holding it to make sure, you know, it didn't get too windy. But after we had inflated it to a particular level, I went to go turn the high voltage timer on -- it's an egg timer. And it would -- it would emit one million volts every five minutes for one minute. But I thought -- I could have sworn he was standing right next to me. But I went to go pull the release lever...

BLITZER: You're talking about Falcon?

R. HEENE: Correct.

BLITZER: You're talking about Falcon was...

R. HEENE: Yes.

BLITZER: thought was standing next to you.

Go ahead.

R. HEENE: Yes, that's correct. So I went to go pull the release lever and we were pretty confident, you know, that everything was going to go well. And then all of a sudden the tether starts dangling and it took off. So, you know, I kind of freaked out a little bit. And I asked my wife, what happened with tether, you know?

We didn't say it like that. We were kind of yelling. And she said she tied it. But immediately Bradford was trying to get my attention and I didn't quite take it all in at that moment. But, finally, he said -- you know, I kind of took to heart what he was saying. He said Falcon was inside the flying saucer. And...

BLITZER: Let me stop you for a moment there. And I don't know if Bradford can hear me, but maybe you could have him explain why did he think that Falcon Bradford is 10 years old. Falcon is six years old.

Why did he think Falcon was inside that balloon?

R. HEENE: OK, he's asking you a question, Bradford.

He wants to know why did you think Falcon was inside the balloon?

BRADFORD HEENE, BALLOON BOY'S BROTHER: Sure. That he went up to me -- I got this all on camera. Falcon went up to me and he went like this.


B. HEENE: I'm going to go sneak in that flying saucer. And I saw him go in. But I didn't see him go in that -- in the big...

BLITZER: So Bradford says he was he thought he saw Falcon go into the -- into the -- into the balloon, is that right?

R. HEENE: Right. That's correct.

BLITZER: But he...

R. HEENE: So he...

BLITZER: ...but he really didn't -- ask Falcon, because he can't hear me, either. Ask Falcon where he was.

Where did he disappear as all of you saw this balloon all of a sudden take off?

R. HEENE: Falcon, he's asking you a question. He wants to know where were you when the craft took off?

Where were you at?

F. HEENE: I was in the attic. And the reason why I went up there, my dad yelled at me. He didn't want me to play in the flying saucer.

BLITZER: I couldn't exactly understand what he was, saying Richard.

What was he saying?

R. HEENE: He said that he was hiding in the attic because I had yelled at him earlier for playing in the flying saucer and...


R. HEENE: ...he tends, you know, to -- go ahead.


R. HEENE: Well, he tends to kind of hang at the back of the line if he's scolded. You know, he kind of got his own room kind of a thing, if he gets reprimanded.

BLITZER: But earlier...

R. HEENE: And...

BLITZER: Earlier in the day or just a little while before this, you had scolded him. And, as a result of that, he ran into the garage attic and he actually hid inside a box, is that right?

R. HEENE: Well, I didn't know exactly where he had hid until I opened the door and I guess people were shooting the camera. And he was showing them how he got in. And I never knew, of course, he had a hiding place like that.


R. HEENE: I knew about a hiding place outside.

BLITZER: Was there an area inside that balloon where somebody could go in?

Was there an area that was -- you know, that would have worked, if he had gone into the bottom of that basket or whatever it is at the bottom of that -- that balloon?

R. HEENE: Yes. The area is about -- about 16 inches high by 48 inches across. So there's plenty of room. And you could probably fit three kids in that thing, you know.

BLITZER: And is there a door in the bottom?

Is that how you get -- how do you get in there?

R. HEENE: Yes. There is a little cardboard door that I would access the high voltage equipment and also access the valve to inflate the actual craft.

BLITZER: All right. So -- so at this point, you believe, after what Bradford, your 10-year-old says, he says that Falcon is inside that balloon. The balloon has just taken off. It's now in the sky. We're going to pick up the story in a moment. I want to take a quick break. But the Heene family is with us here on this special addition of LARRY KING LIVE -- a story that captivated so many of us during the course of several hours today. Fortunately, everything turned out just fine.

But we're going to go through it step by step.

LARRY KING LIVE will continue right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with the Heene family from Fort Collins, Colorado. It was an amazing story that all of us were -- were watching today during the course of several hours, deeply worried about little 6-year-old Falcon. He's sitting next to his dad, Richard, over there. Mayumi, the mom, is there and two brothers, Bradford and Riu.

Earlier in the day, I was reporting all of this in THE SITUATION ROOM here on CNN. And it was my privilege and pleasure to report the really good news.

Listen to this, guys.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: He's alive and at home right now, that little 6-year- old boy, Falcon. We are now being told by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, he has been found and he is OK. Great, great news to report. We don't know how this happened, whether he ever, in fact, was aboard that runaway...


BLITZER: All right. So there was the news that we reported earlier here on CNN.

Mayumi, you're the mom. Pick up the story. All of a sudden you're in the backyard. You have this balloon. It takes off. It's supposed to be tethered to the ground. It takes off. Your 10-year- old son, Bradford says that Falcon, the 6-year-old, had every is inside that basket, at the bottom of the balloon, and you see it taking off for the sky.

Mayumi, what did you say?

What did you do?

M. HEENE: We just got surprised that the balloon -- the craft, it kept going up. And it's supposed to stay 20 feet above the ground. And that surprised us first. And, Richard and I kind of argued with, you know, I am supposed to tie it and it was not done correctly. And we -- we are so involved we forget about where the craft went.

And, meanwhile, Bradford had said Falcon is inside of it, Falcon inside of it. And we couldn't hear at first. And then I realized, what?

And that's the moment we realized what's happening. BLITZER: And you believed that Falcon was inside that balloon. You didn't know that earlier he had run into the garage and was hiding out in the attic, because he got into a little dispute with his dad earlier in the day.

So what did you do at that point, Richard?

You know, you're a scientist. You understand the -- the science of all of this.

Did you believe that balloon could take off with, what, a 40 or 50 pound little boy in -- in that basket?

R. HEENE: Yes. We had -- well, we calculated roughly, you know, how much it could possibly hold. And so when the reality -- that part of it had set in it, it's like, oh, my gosh, you know, he -- he could really be in this thing. And so I had to take Bradford serious, because the clock was ticking.

So once that set in place and I'm watching this thing drift away, I asked Brad -- I put a ladder against the roof. And I said, Brad, could you jump on the roof and find out, you know, which direction he is going, we've got to tell somebody?

Yes. So I -- I had to call the FAA. I'm thinking, well, somebody is going to follow it. I'm hoping they can pick it up on radar.

My other concern was there's an airport nearby and I didn't want, you know, planes running into it, especially if -- you know, if he is inside.

BLITZER: Did you call 911, too?

R. HEENE: Yes. I called the FAA first, but they said call 911. And at first, I was kind of stunned because why would I call them, that's police and fire, you know?

And, anyway, so I called 911. They stayed on the phone with me. They were nice. And I gave them all the information.

BLITZER: And were you...

R. HEENE: And...

BLITZER: Were you calm?

Were you freaking out?

I can only imagine what you must have been going through. You believed your son was inside that balloon.

And could you even see the balloon at that point or was it long gone?

R. HEENE: By the time I had -- by the time I had gotten on the phone, the boys said that they couldn't see but a speck after that. So I'm -- you know, at that point, it's out of my sight.

BLITZER: You couldn't see it and so you're talking to 911, you're telling them this balloon has just taken off. Your son, you thought, was inside.

You -- did you know for sure or did you -- or did you believe for sure or did you think possibly little Falcon could be inside the house or someplace else?

R. HEENE: Well, after we had yelled his name several times and were running around for a couple of minutes, I'm guessing, you know, maybe five, seven minutes we're running around. You know, it started building on us that, my gosh, you know, maybe he's really inside.


R. HEENE: You know, I've got no reason to doubt Bradford at that point. But to get verification later on, we looked at some video footage that Bradford has shot. Falcon said he's going to sneak inside. So at that point, we had believed 100 percent that he was on board.

BLITZER: And Falcon was really in the garage this whole time. I don't know if Falcon can hear me, but was he -- because I know at some point, he fell in sleep in that garage, but he was hiding out because he thought you were going to punish him for something that happened earlier in the day.

Did he hear anything?

Did he hear you screaming out, "Falcon, Falcon?"

R. HEENE: He's asking, Falcon -- did you hear us calling your name at any time?

F. HEENE: Uh-huh.

R. HEENE: You did?

M. HEENE: You didn't?

R. HEENE: Well, why didn't you come out?

F. HEENE: You had said that we did this for a show.

R. HEENE: Yeah --

F. HEENE: No --

R. HEENE: You didn't come out?


BLITZER: I heard what he said, but I'm sure that's -- I'm not -- it wasn't real -- really clear. What was his -- his reasoning why he heard -- he heard you screaming, "Falcon, Falcon." And I'm sure he heard his mom screaming, "Falcon, Falcon."

But why didn't he come out of the garage at that point?

R. HEENE: Well, you know, whenever he -- whenever we tell him things like, you know, it's a bad thing to do, he does go and hide. He cowers down. And like if we go to the store and he wants to buy some candy or something, I have to tell him no. So he's always behind. I mean, the other boys are always telling him, hurry, Falcon, hurry.

So he does -- he does tend to do that.

BLITZER: Did you think -- Mayumi, did you think it was possible that Falcon was just hiding out this time and was not necessarily on board that balloon?

M. HEENE: We searched any -- any place, even the small drawers and possibly Falcon can fit in any -- any part of house -- and we couldn't find him. Also, we searched his friends' houses, you know, he might be visiting. We -- we went through possible -- any places so (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Well, the ordeal was...


BLITZER: The ordeal was only just beginning.

And we're going to pick up at that point right, after this short break.

LARRY KING LIVE will continue right after this.


BLITZER: We are back with the Heene family, Richard and Mayumi. Their little son Falcon was messing for several hours, supposedly on this balloon that was a runaway balloon. Fortunately, he was fine.

Richard, how long did it take for local authorities, police, to get to your house in Fort Collins?

M. HEENE: Can we get them back?

R. HEENE: My kids kind of spread out right now. OK, I'm sorry. Can you ask me again?

BLITZER: How long did it take for the police to get to your house?

R. HEENE: Jeez. I'm going to guess half an hour maybe. Because -- no, no, actually sooner than that, because I was on the phone with 911, and my kids said they heard some police radios or something outside.


R. HEENE: So it was probably out front first.

BLITZER: So the police get there, and they start asking questions, right? What was going on? And at that point, you are obviously cooperating with the police and you are telling them everything you know. You believe your son is on that balloon?

R. HEENE: Yes. That's correct. So I was on the phone with different police agencies, telling them what was going on. And I'm kind of lost for words right now.

BLITZER: Let me ask Mayumi. At some point, all the local TV stations in the area and all of the -- all of us at CNN and all the other cable networks, we start showing live pictures of helicopters chasing this balloon. Mayumi, were you watching TV? Did you see what was going on?

M. HEENE: We didn't watch any TV, and -- but only words from sheriff's department. They have been telling us what's going on in terms of searching the craft, you know, searching Falcon. So they have been keeping -- informed us. That helped us a lot.

BLITZER: And at one point, Richard, there was -- after the balloon landed, and it landed well -- it landed very smoothly in an area not far from the Denver International Airport, and there was nobody on board, there was a report that there had been a separate basket or box attached to the balloon and your little boy Falcon might have been inside. Where did that come from? What was going on there?

R. HEENE: Well, the basket is the -- I'm going to call it the utility container for the equipment. And once I was informed that it had touched down, they told us -- they said he wasn't -- he's here, and I shouldn't be talking like this, you know, I mean -- but they said he wasn't in there. And, you know, I just kind of lost it at that point.

BLITZER: What did you think?

R. HEENE: I thought maybe he had fallen out. And I'm just so glad he is here, you know? But I -- yeah, I mean, the first thing that came to my mind was that he had fallen out, because the door on it was cardboard, and he could have jumped out or fallen out. I didn't know what else to think. But then they said that maybe perhaps he never got in, and then, of course, that kind of renewed our positive feelings.

BLITZER: Because there were three -- there were three options that people were talking about, local authorities, county sheriffs that, A, he might have fallen out; B, there was a separate basket or box attached that may have been detached from the balloon; and, C, that he was never inside to begin with, but was someplace in the house or in the neighborhood. People were going to be looking for him. Those were basically the three options that all of us who were reporting on this were considering at that moment. And after the balloon touched down and there was no evidence that the door, the latch had been tampered with, had been opened, and we were being told immediately it didn't look like anybody was ever inside. I'm sure you heard that as well.

R. HEENE: No, I didn't hear that. No, they never said anything like that.

BLITZER: Because we were told right away that it didn't look like the latch had been tampered with, it didn't look like the door had been opened or closed. If he had fallen out over the -- over Colorado someplace, that door would have been opened. It couldn't have been reclosed -- or closed again automatically, if you get the drift.

R. HEENE: Right. Yes. So, I mean, the other suggestion is they had come up talking to the police officers, they said perhaps, you know, he is at a friend, so then we came up with new ideas. Perhaps he was hanging out at some of the neighbors, some of the friends. So Bradford helped out and escorted the officers to their friends' house, where they would hang out. And some of the other places. They would have little forts or hideouts over the hill. And then I was told that they had another one kind of in the opposite direction of the house. So we kind of...

BLITZER: Go ahead -- stand by for a moment, because I want to take another quick break. We're going to pick up this dramatic story right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with Richard and Mayumi Heene, and their three sons -- Bradford, who's 10, Riu who's 8, and little 6-year-old Falcon, some are calling him the balloon boy because there was great fear that he was in that balloon.

By my account, Richard, it looks like he was in the garage hiding out, for whatever reason, for at least four hours -- two hours, while that balloon was flying around and two hours after it landed near Denver International Airport. And I'm still unclear why he stayed in there for all four hours. And there's certainly a commotion going on in your house, in the whole area, the whole neighborhood.

R. HEENE: Yes. He said he had gone to sleep, so it's kind of logical. He had gotten up early that morning, and so I would imagine, you know, he did fall asleep up there.

BLITZER: Falcon, so you -- I don't know if you can hear me. But if not, you can relay the question. Ask him, did he fall asleep? Was he still scared if he got out you were going to punish him -- punish him for something earlier in the day? Maybe he wants to elaborate a little bit.

R. HEENE: What's that last part?

BLITZER: Just ask Falcon why he stayed in that garage for four hours.

R. HEENE: Falcon, they want to know did you fall asleep in the garage for the entire time?

F. HEENE: No. First I was playing in the attic. Then I stopped and went to bed in the attic.

R. HEENE: And then you went to bed in the attic, OK.

BLITZER: So Falcon, what happened when you woke up? Did you come outside? At what point, in other words, Richard, did you know, thank God, everything was OK?

R. HEENE: Oh. Well, we were sitting on the couch. There were some other folks in the room trying to help us calm our nerves. And my wife, I heard her scream. Falcon came around the corner. You know, I dropped to my knees. I screamed as well. You know, here he is. He is safe. He is alive. So it was a great moment, you know?

BLITZER: A fabulous moment. How did it feel when you saw your little boy?

M. HEENE: First, I couldn't comprehend Falcon standing here. I feel like I'm having a dream. The next moment Falcon here. I just jumped in and I -- I was speechless.

BLITZER: Was that the happiest moment -- the happiest moment in your life?

M. HEENE: Definitely, it was.

BLITZER: It was a thrilling moment. And so, Richard, you see your son. What's the first thing you say to Falcon after you stop crying?

R. HEENE: He scared the daylights out of us. I just asked him to please never do that again. Later on, after everything kind of settled down, a couple of hours ago, I brought everybody in. We sat down. I told him, you know, we can't do this. You guys have a hiding place someplace, you got to let us know. Because, I mean, what if they were, you know, in a kitchen cabinet or hiding in a closet, and a fire broke out, you know? And if I don't know their hiding places, I can't help them.

We've all kind of made a pact as a family that we're all going to be open about that.

BLITZER: I would love to hear from Bradford, who is 10. I don't know if he can hear me, but if he can't, maybe you can relay the question. Bradford, how did you feel when you saw your baby brother?

BRADFORD HEENE, BROTHER: I thought it was awesome.

BLITZER: And looking back, you really believed that he was on that balloon, didn't you?

B. HEENE: Yes.

BLITZER: And you were saying, Bradford, that you were taking video -- you were shooting a camera as this whole experience -- as you guys were experimenting with this balloon. And on the basis of that, you had heard your brother say he was going to sneak on the balloon? Is that what convinced you he was on board?

B. HEENE: Yes.

BLITZER: And you have -- Richard, these pictures that you have in the video, hopefully you'll be able to share them with us. I think it would be pretty cool to see all that stuff, don't you think?

R. HEENE: Maybe. I mean, I kind of lost my mind, so I don't really want anyone to see me screaming. But --

BLITZER: Were they shooting video when you finally realized that Falcon was alive?

R. HEENE: No, I don't think anybody was shooting video once -- No. When Falcon came in, nobody was shooting any pictures or video.

BLITZER: No, but that was just the spontaneous loving moment. Stand by. We have more to discuss. And we'll continue our conversation with the Heene family right after this.


BLITZER: Richard Heene, you know there are people out there who believe this was all one giant publicity stunt, for whatever reason, this was just all made up from the beginning. You've heard this. And I want you to respond to those out there who believe this was just one big publicity stunt on your part.

R. HEENE: Absolutely not. I mean, they said that out front. And I was kind of shocked to hear that, only because the reality of the situation for us is that, you know, it's going on. So we always do research together as a family. We chase storms. We chase dust devils. We travel together as a family. We collect data with the measurements of the storms that we chase.

I mean, this is just what we do. Perhaps that might apply to somebody that doesn't do this all the time.

BLITZER: I guess those who believe it was a publicity stunt cite some of the Youtube videos that you have posted with the kids, with the family as -- including a rap song that you guys were doing, which I have seen up on Youtube. You guys were in it for the publicity, so that -- they're saying, well, this may have been part of that. You want to respond to that?

R. HEENE: Well, the rap song was because we're trying to encourage our kids to get into music. We got them a drum set. My wife has been teaching them a little bit of guitar here and there. Falcon plays harmonica. Riu does some very good whistling. We thought these kids love music. The best way to encourage them is to shoot a music video. And they like seeing themselves.

We were kind of aiming to get positive comments the kids' could read. But I think it helps build the kids' confidence so they'll be encouraged to get into music.

BLITZER: The other thing people are pointing to is your appearance -- that your family's appearance on the ABC reality show "Wife Swap," on the 100th episode of that TV show. I have to admit, I haven't seen it, but a lot of people have. What was all that about?

R. HEENE: What was the "Wife Swap" thing about?

BLITZER: Your appearance on "Wife Swap," where what happens is your wife goes to another family, somebody else's wife comes to your family. You sort of swap places.

R. HEENE: Right. Yes. We had caught a tornado north of Fort Collins, which is why we moved here. From that, we had reported it, that we had caught the tornado, to the National Weather Service. And CBS -- I guess it was them -- did a story on us. "Denver Post" contacted us. Things kind of build from there.

They had contacted us asking us if we would want to be on "Wife Swap." And I never knew what "Wife Swap" was, so I rejected the idea. Then I investigated it. They said it's not what it sounded like. It's a very respectable show. And I have respect for it now, because I knew nothing about it before.

But they liked what we did, so they had a contest of viewers to vote on us. They had 24 other families up. So the viewers voted, and voted us back on.

BLITZER: Let me let your wife weigh in on that as well. What do you say to those out there -- and you know there are people out there who say that all of us -- this was just a hoax, and we were just tricked, and this was just part of a publicity stunt. Go ahead.

M. HEENE: OK. Well (INAUDIBLE). It's real, and that's all I know. So I don't have anything else to say to those people.

BLITZER: You don't want to -- obviously, you're thrilled that your son is -- you honestly believed that your son was in grave danger during those four hours when he was hiding out in the garage?

M. HEENE: I really thought we might have lost him. But on the other hand, I didn't want to believe that. So I was praying that he should be fine. He should be fine. And that's all I could think of.

BLITZER: Thank god he is OK. Richard, maybe you want to ask Falcon if he wants -- if he wants to say anything to all of us, because just let him know how grateful and thrilled we are that he is just fine. He is obviously a precocious little boy.

R. HEENE: Yes. Falcon, everybody is watching this on TV right now. And they want to know if you would like to say something about what happened. M. HEENE: A lot of people helped to find you.

R. HEENE: You could tell them thank you, because there was a lot of the police looking after us. The media certainly had helicopters. So they helped track you. I guess emergency vehicles did. You want to say thank you?

BLITZER: I'm getting a lot of e-mail. There was no school in Fort Collins today.

M. HEENE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Richard, there was no school in Fort Collins today, that's why the boys were home. Is that right?

R. HEENE: That's correct. There's no school Thursday and Friday.

BLITZER: All right. A day for experiment. We've got more questions to ask you guys. You are being very, very patient with us. Our viewers are interested in this story. We have some more questions for all of the Heene family. We'll continue that right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with the Heene family. It was a dramatic, dramatic few hours, as a lot of us thought that little boy, Falcon, six years old, was stuck in a balloon that had simply run away. And we didn't know what happened to him. Major Justin Smith is joining in the conversation with us right now from Fort Collins. He is the Larimer County -- with the Sheriff's Office. I take it, Major Smith, you're investigating exactly what happened. Is that right?

MAJ. JUSTIN SMITH, LARIMER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Yes, Wolf. Our agency was in charge of the search and rescue, as well as the criminal investigation part of the incident.

BLITZER: What does that mean, a criminal investigation part? Explain what that means.

SMITH: Any time you have a missing person, the patrol deputies and investigators come out. So we were the initial responders that came as the 911 call came in. So, as we arrived on scene here, our deputies began to ask the questions, and tried to sort out what was happening.

Very unusual incident. So the questions that have come up, is there anything suspicious about this incident. We have seen no indications that this was anything more than what looked like a tragedy that was averted.

BLITZER: You have no evidence to suggest it was all planned, it was some sort of publicity stunt? Is that what you are saying, Major?

SMITH: You're correct. There's -- we've seen no indication that this is anything more than it came in as a 911 call, that there was this situation where they believed the child was in the balloon and had a lot of emergency personnel doing everything they could to sort that out.

BLITZER: Once that balloon touched down, and there was no child on board, then what did you think?

SMITH: At that point, there were a lot of stomachs that just sank. We were expecting the boy to be on there. We were very concerned how that balloon was coming down. We were relieved to hear that it was coming down, and when they aired the fact that there was nobody in there, boy, just a lot of hearts really sunk on that. Then we started backing up to figure out what else could have happened to the young child.

BLITZER: Was it the working assumption that the child might have fallen out of the balloon, as it was floating around the skies?

SMITH: That's exactly the information that was coming in. I know the news outlets were receiving multiple reports of what was going on. That times ten was what was coming into law enforcement. We got several reports of people with pictures and video, where they believe something was falling off the balloon. So there were several areas. One was still within our county, a short distance from the family home. Others were quite a distance out.

This balloon traveled probably 50 miles. So you had multiple jurisdictions trying to figure out where these reports came from, if there was any truth to them. We had multiple areas to search.

BLITZER: At one point, the Colorado National Guard was called out and helicopters with night vision equipment were deployed, because it was going to be dark fairly soon. Is that right?

SMITH: Yes. Early on, they had helicopters. We had a lot of daylight left. However, we're always planning for a distance out. And as this report came into us, it was one of those situations nobody is prepared for. You know, who would be responsible to try to rescue someone from a balloon that ran away? Certainly a child.

So we were working with multiple law enforcement agencies. Colorado National Guard was integral, as were our local media outlets, that put helicopters up, kept an eye on the balloon, and were available for anything we needed from them.

BLITZER: Major Smith, stand by. I want to get back to the family. I want to take another quick break first. We'll continue right after this.



BLITZER: We're going to get back to the Heene family in a moment, and their three sons, including Falcon, who was believed stuck in that balloon for a few hours. Fortunately, he was not. He's just fine. Let's talk to Mike Fink for a minute. He is with the Larimer County Search and Rescue Department. Mike, based on everything you know, was this legitimate or was this a publicity stunt?

MIKE FINK, LARIMER COUNTY SEARCH AND RESCUE DEPARTMENT: I think it was legitimate. We were prepared to go out and look for a lost boy. That's really what we cared about.

BLITZER: And walk us through the roller coaster. Because at several points we thought it was all over. But fortunately, everything turned out just fine.

FINK: Yes. We were put on stand by early on. And we were sitting around, waiting at our works, or wherever we might have happened to be. And then -- oh, gosh, about an hour or so into the event, we were asked to respond here to the residence, where we were going to be dispatched to start searching.

BLITZER: What were your fears? Did you ever -- did you really, genuinely believe the boy was in that balloon? Or did you just assume he was missing some place else?

FINK: I personally -- once the media said that the balloon was empty -- felt that there was a strong possibility that he wasn't even in it to begin with.

BLITZER: And so then did you start searching the house and the neighborhood?

FINK: Well, we were on stand by at that point. They didn't get us involved until they confirmed that there might be, you know, something to search for here in this area, and possibly along the flight path.

BLITZER: Fortunately, everything turned out just fine. Mike Fink, thanks very much. We'll take a quick break and wrap this up with the family. Some final questions for this family right after this.


BLITZER: Richard Heene, the father of little Falcon -- Richard, earlier in the show I asked you to relay the question to Falcon. He was hiding in the garage for four hours. I asked you to ask him why didn't he come out after he heard you and his mom and everybody else screaming for Falcon. And you said to him, "Falcon, why didn't you come out?" And Falcon said, hmmm, you guys said that we did this for the show. And you said, hmmmm. What did he mean, we did this for the show?

R. HEENE: I have no idea. I think he was talking about the media. They've been asking a lot of questions. So somebody asked him that question earlier.

BLITZER: Do you want to ask him now. I don't know if he can hear me? What did he mean by what he said we did this for the show? Do you want to ask Falcon?

R. HEENE: Falcon, they want to know -- they want to know why you were in the attic for so long and why you -- say it again?

BLITZER: Why he said -- he said we did this for the show in explaining why he didn't come out of the attic.

R. HEENE: Yes. Let me interrupt this real quick. I think I can see the direction you guys are hedging on this. Because earlier you had asked the police officers the question. The media out front, we weren't even going to do this view. And I'm kind of appalled, after all of the feelings that I went through, up and down, that you guys are trying to suggest something else.

OK? I'm really appalled, because they said out in front that this would be the end, and I wouldn't have to be bothered for the rest of the week with any shows or anything. So we said OK, fine, we'll do this. So I'm kind of appalled that you guy would say something like that. You know?

BLITZER: No, no. We're not asking anything unusual. You were asked earlier about if this was a publicity stunt. You say it wasn't. The police say it wasn't. The rescue operation say it wasn't. The only thing I wanted to clarify why Falcon had said earlier we did this for the show. I just wanted to clarify. I didn't understand what he was referring to.

R. HEENE: Well, you know, we were on "Wife Swap" a couple times. The camera crew was out there, I would imagine -- they asked him a couple questions in reference to this. And I believe, you know, he meant something to do with that.

BLITZER: Right. And he's nodding his head for that. I don't want you to misunderstand. Just asking the question doesn't mean, Richard, that we're suggesting untoward or anything like. That we're just thrilled that Falcon is alive and well, and your family is together. We watched all of this play out during the course of several hours. And I have to tell you personally, as a reporter who reported that he was alive and well, it was a thrilling moment for me, because, you know, I was really, really worried that I would have to report something very, very different.

I was just grateful that he is just fine. You have a beautiful family there. You spent an hour talking about it with us, and with the entire country. Everyone was engrossed. Everyone was watching. And we want to wish you and your wife and the three boys only the best. Thanks very much for joining us.

That's it for us. I'm Wolf Blitzer, sitting in for Larry King. "Anderson Cooper 360" starts right now.