Balloon Boy Mania: Media Gets Punk'd While
Boy All But Admits Hoax on CNN

9:58 PM

I am not lying when I say I awoke Thursday morning feeling like something weird or bizarro was going to happen. Not necessarily something bad, just something weird. And Jeez Louise, did that premonition come true:
If you were near a TV or on Twitter this morning, new broke after 11A that six-year-old Falcon Heene was trapped inside a homemade hot air balloon floating at altitudes up to 15,000MSL over the flatlands of Eastern Colarado. The family was constructing the fake UFO in the back yard of their suburban Fort Collins, CO. home, and Falcon's brother swore he saw Falcon get into the balloon and depart the backyard airport. The family reportedly called a local TV station begging for their news chopper to be launched in search of the boy, and as fast as digital news travels these days, in minutes the story was wall-to-wall, non-stop coverage on every cable news station.
As this drama unfolded in streaming video on my desktop, it soon became the most intense thing I have watched in years. A little boy floating in a very odd spaceship/balloon that was listing and spinning at altitude was mesmerizing, one could not help to think this might end badly. Twitter exploded with traffic, and the cable news people were stroking out trying to find out what the hell was going on with this increasingly strange story.

We all gasped as the now-deflating craft gently floated back to Earth in a freshly-plowed field. As first responders opened the door, we were all wondering if they were going to pull a lifeless body out. But the craft was...empty.

From the second the word got out officially that the boy was not in the craft when it landed, people started talking hoax. History on the family is that they were recently on the reality show "Wife Swap", about the most dysfunctional example of worthless television we have these days. Further, the dad has been featured on various Storm Chaser TV programs. That, coupled with the fact that THEY HAD AN INFLATED FAKE UFO BALLOON IN THEIR BACKYARD certainly raised lots of red flags.

But before anyone could confirm this was a hoax, the story quickly spread that there might have been some sort of basket underneath that the boy might have been in, and that news sparked a massive ground search for the boy and the basket. As this was unfolding, news came that, guess what, the boy was in fact hiding in a box in the garage attic, safe and sound.

When this news broke, again, many screamed hoax or publicity stunt. But, maybe the boy accidentally let the balloon go and was hiding in fear of being in trouble. Until that riddle was solved, the hoax storyline could not be "officially" published.

But late this afternoon, a youtube video raced through the Web that seems to confirm that this could have been a really poorly implemented stunt:
In this video, CNN's Wolf Blitzer is interviewing the family, and asks why Falcon didn't come out when he heard his name being called. In a small, kind of scared six-year-old voice, he is heard clearly saying "because you guys (parents) said we did this for a show." 'Nuf said.
So if the family "did this for a show", they sure caused a mess of trouble in our skies while playing their "lost kid in the balloon: game. This is from AP:
"The Colorado Army National Guard sent an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter and was preparing to send a Black Hawk UH-60 to try to rescue the boy, possibly by lowering someone to the balloon. Northbound departures at Denver International Airport were shut down as a precaution to prevent against a possible collision between the balloon and an airliner, said Lyle Burrington, an air traffic controller at the Federal Aviation Administration's radar center in Longmont, Colo. Air traffic controllers warned planes in the area about the balloon, Burrington said."
If this proves to be in fact a charade, the hundreds if not thousands of first responders on the ground, the ATC people, the FAA, NORAD, the airlines that had flights delayed, the media outlets that got punk'd...they're all going to line up to get a piece of this family:
Had the kid not said that in a national CNN interview, I'd have held off on playing the "hoax" card. But I've watched the video many times, and you cannot dispute that the kid definitely said he thought they were doing this for a "show." We have not heard the end of this story, and I suspect the family will be on every morning and afternoon talk show to tell their story. But unless they can come up with solid evidence that Falcon was wrong on this video and it was all a big mistake, I think the Heene family can kiss their book and movie deal goodbye.
Yes, I still am hopeful that this was a big mistake, and Falcon was not saying what we all think he was saying on that CNN video. But if it proves that indeed it was a planned stunt, I have a hunch the local and Federal authorities will not only fine this family into bankruptcy, but the parents could also be looking at jail time over any number of charges. You can view the father's response to Blitzer's follow-up question here and make up your own mind.

Yes, a very bizarro day indeed.

UPDATE @958A on 10.16.09: It's game over. MSNBC has footage of balloon boy's dad launching the balloon from their backyard yesterday. Clear evidence to dispute their story from yesterday. I'm thinking the cops might have, um, a few questions for this family.

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