The 'showmakers' of the Colorado balloon incident (also known as the Heene Hoax, Balloon Boy Hoax, or Balloon Boy Incident) fail to feel ashamed of their actions.
The incident in which a six-year-old was mistakenly believed to have floated away in a home-made balloon, attracting world-wide attention, took place on October 15, 2009. Falcon Heene, of Fort Collins, Colorado, was believed to be traveling at altitudes reaching 7,000 feet in a homemade helium balloon colored and shaped to resemble a silver flying saucer-type of UFO. Falcon, referred to as the "Balloon Boy" by some media outlets, had reportedly climbed into the balloon when it became untied and launched.
After an hours-long flight that covered more than 50 miles across three counties, the balloon landed about 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Denver International Airport. The boy was not found, causing fears he had fallen out of the balloon; it was reported that an object had detached from the balloon and fallen to the ground. A search was conducted for the child and, later that afternoon, he was eventually reported to have been hiding at his house the whole time.
In an interview in response to a question about why he was hiding, Falcon said to his father, "You guys said that, um, we did this for the show." This added to speculation that the incident was a hoax and publicity stunt engineered by the boy's father, Richard Heene.
On October 18, Larimer County sheriff Jim Alderden announced the incident was a hoax, and that the parents would likely face several felony charges.
Reporters suppose that the incident has been invented with the single purpose - for attracting publicity to the family. The family had been featured twice on the reality television show Wife Swap, the second time as a fan-favorite choice for the show's 100th episode.
Richard Heene's lawyer announced on October 19 that Richard and Mayumi Heene would surrender to police as soon as charges are filed. He said it would be "abusive" if the Heenes were handcuffed where their children and the news media could watch. They are expected to plead not guilty.
The incident was also used by certain commentators to debate the role of the media in modern American society. A analysis by AFP concluded that little had been learned by the episode. Media outlets would likely repeat their mistake in the future of uncritically covering a sensational event without much fact-checking; the "voracious demands of the 24-hour news cycle" simply did not allow a more critical approach", according to various reports.
ABC News has contributed to the report.
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