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Writer Claims to Have Solved Balloon Boy Mystery

Robert Sanchez catches up with the Heene family, 10 years later
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2019 1:32 PM CDT
Updated Oct 6, 2019 6:42 AM CDT
In this TV publicity image released by ABC for their appearance on "Wife Swap," the Heene family, clockwise from back left, Richard, Mayumi, Ryan, Falcon and Bradford are shown at their home in Fort Collins,...   (AP Photo/ABC)
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(Newser) – It's been nearly a decade since America's attention was briefly fixated on "Balloon Boy," aka Falcon Heene, the Colorado 6-year-old thought to have gone up in the basket of the massive balloon constructed by father Richard Heene. For hours, the media broadcast video of the balloon's flight, eventual descent, and the panicked search for Falcon when he wasn't in the basket. Eventually, the boy emerged from the garage's attic, where he said he had been hiding and then fallen asleep. The story quickly fell apart and was eventually called a hoax meant to launch the family to stardom, but Richard has always insisted it was all real. For the October issue of 5280, Robert Sanchez spoke extensively to the Heenes, who now live in New York, finding out how their lives turned out after their infamous 15 minutes of fame—and possibly, in the course of writing the story, answering once and for all whether the stunt was indeed a hoax.

The lawyer for Mayumi Heene, matriarch of the family, located her case file and shared it with Sanchez. Included in the file were notes Mayumi had kept in the lead-up to and aftermath of the balloon incident, which appear to show, as Sanchez puts it, "a motive and a plan." Except that instead of hiding in the basement as planned, Falcon hid in the garage attic and accidentally fell asleep, so the whole thing got much more serious and went on much longer than planned. The article ends in dramatic fashion, with Mayumi crying and Richard yelling as she appears to insist to Sanchez that what she wrote, not the balloon incident, was fabricated. But the entire article is worth a read, as it delves into the ins and outs of the 2009 incident (Mayumi could reportedly have been deported had the couple gone to trial and lost), Richard's current inventions, Falcon and his brothers' heavy metal band, and how Falcon feels about the incident now. (Read more Falcon Heene stories.)

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