The story that a little boy had floated away in a giant helium balloon was a hoax concocted to land a reality television show, authorities said Sunday, and the boy's parents will likely face felony charges.
The stunt two weeks in the planning was a marketing ploy by Richard and Mayumi Heene, who met in acting school in Hollywood and have appeared on the ABC reality show "Wife Swap," Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said. The Heenes have reportedly been working on a reality TV deal in Los Angeles.
Investigators are examining the possibility of other conspirators, "including the possibility that even some of the media outlets may have had some knowledge about this," Alderden said, The Associated Press reports.
During the incident Thursday, when Heene said his 37-pound son may have been inside the flying-saucer-shaped balloon, the sheriff's department contacted a specialist at Colorado State University to determine whether it could carry the child.
Based on the dimensions for the balloon that Heene provided at the time, the specialist "determined that it was, in fact, possible for this balloon to have launched," Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden told reporters Sunday.
But after they recovered the balloon and checked the actual measurements, authorities discovered "it was not capable of lifting off" with the boy on board, Alderden said.
The reason, according to the sheriff, is that the contraption weighs 18 pounds more than what Heene said, CNN reports.
Balloon Boy was a publicity stunt concocted by Richard Heene to secure his own reality show. During a press conference held yesterday, Sheriff Jim Alderden said it wasn’t possible for a 37 lb boy to fit in the balloon made of duct tape, that Richard Heene and his wife met in acting class and that Richard may now face state and federal charges.
Alderden said that the Heene’s had been planning this for two weeks and were in talks for a reality tv show. That likely won’t happen now since they could face charges of conspiracy, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, making a false report to authorities and attempting to influence a public servant.
This means six years in jail and a $500,000 fine. Child services may also take his kids away. Alderden added that Richard only has a high school education. “He may be nutty, but he’s not a professor,” he said, according to The Blemish.
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