COPY-Balloon boy incident raises concerns

COPY-Balloon boy incident raises concerns

By Jennifer Serda - email | bio

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A Colorado family accused of plotting an elaborate balloon hoax could face some serious charges.

For more than three hours Thursday, the nation watched on live television as a homemade balloon thought to be carrying a 6-year-old boy flew for 50 miles over Colorado.

National Guard helicopters, sheriff's deputies and other emergency crews were all involved in the hours-long rescue effort to save 6-year-old Falcon Heene.

His parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, reported to 911 that he was stuck inside the balloon.

When the balloon finally landed, the 6-year-old wasn't inside. He was found shortly after hiding in the attic of his family's home.

Many began to question the Heenes' story after a CNN interview with the family. When Richard Heene asked 6-year-old Falcon why he didn't come out of his hiding place in the attic, Falcon said, "you said we did this for a show."

Then over the weekend, Larimer County sheriff Jim Alderden said that entire incident was just a publicity stunt the Heenes put together to market themselves for a reality show.

Authorities also say the Heenes' children were in on the hoax and told them to lie about it which has since raised questions about possible abuse in the Heene household.

"Child protection has been notified, they are aware of it. They have pulled a case number and they will be conducting an investigation into whether that is a safe environment as suitable environment for the children," said Sheriff Alderden.

Penney Maggioni works with the Savannah child advocacy group called Raising Our Children Kindly or ROCK and says telling a child to lie or manipulating them is walking a fine line when it comes to child abuse.

"Manipulation is certainly a red flag anytime a child is being manipulated. It's certainly a red flag  and you have to be aware of that depending on what a child is asked to do and those kind of things it could lead to, it could be a sign of something greater going on," said Maggioni.

This is not the first time officials have responded to the Heene home. Alderden said earlier this year, a call was made that lead authorities to a suspicious circumstance that may have involved domestic violence.

The Heene family attorney says speculation of abuse is absurd.

Authorities say they're seeking felony charges against Heenes for the balloon incident.

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