More evidence emerged this morning that yesterday's Balloon Boy escapade was either a deliberate hoax or the result of galactic idiocy, and local authorities have begun investigating whether it was staged.
According to Broadcasting and Cable, it looks like the Heenes called a local television station at the same time they were calling 911 and the FAA to report that their 6-year-old son was airborne in an uncontrollable helium craft over the skies of Denver. Maybe Heene realized that a local TV news chopper could be invaluable in keeping tabs on the balloon, and acted quickly. Or maybe he is a crazy manipulative media hound who plotted the whole thing to—what? Get attention for his electrically controlled helium-balloon invention?
The thing wasn't launched accidentally. A Denver ABC affiliate obtained home video of the Heene family deliberately setting it aloft yesterday morning—they apparently had hoped to leave it hovering, tethered, above their backyard only to see it float away free. In the video, presumably released or sold by the Heenes themselves, Richard Heene is seen yelling at his wife and kids after the balloon heads skyward. Here's a clip that MSNBC played:
In the Denver station's analysis, the video compounds the doubts raised by Falcon Heene's statement on CNN last night that he didn't answer his parents' calls for him because "you guys said we did it for the show":
However, the video raises questions as to when the family knew when Falcon was on the aircraft. In the video, Richard Heene is shown clearly looking at the bottom of the balloon — "the basket" where the boy was supposedly hiding.
Why didn't the parent lunge at the balloon and at the tether when it took off?
This morning on the Today Show, Falcon barfed while his dad was trying to deflect accusations that he staged the whole thing for publicity—a possible sign that the boy may not holding up well under the strain of being forced by his father to lie to the media, and an incontrovertible sign that, hoax or no, his parents are self-obsessed monsters for forcing him to sit in front of cameras and hot lights and barely batting an eye as he threw up into the tupperware container his mother was patiently holding in front of him while on live television.
The family's 911 call, obtained by TMZ, could go either way. Mayumi's frantic wails and random lapses into what sounds like her native language sound genuine enough to us. The rapid succession of losing the balloon, then looking around and not seeing Falcon, then maybe your other kid tells you as a joke or because he was raised by crazy parents that Falcon was in the balloon, and you panic and cover all your bases and call 911 before even looking around the house. But Richard Heene, who is heard in the background talking to either the FAA or the local television station, eventually comes on the phone and is just weird, talking about the balloon's electrical system and taking a cell phone call with the exasperation—"Ugh, who's calling me?"—of a busy man rather than a father who may have just sent his son flying through the Colorado skies.
If it was a deliberate, planned hoax, then the video of the launch could be part of it, intended to serve as the origin scenario for how the kid could have accidentally been on the balloon: Family tries to hove crazy balloon, balloon flies off, family realizes kid was inside. Or they could have come up with the story on the fly after they lost the balloon—hey, let's capitalize on this and detract attention away from the fact that we negligently released a 20-foot-wide balloon near an airport! Or the whole thing could have been a genuine snafu that got out of control—two parents so terrorized at the prospect of Falcon being on the balloon, and wrapped up in media coverage and law enforcement efforts to get the thing down and overall panic, that they neglected to adequately search their own home for him. Sometimes actual emergencies do befall self-obsessed fameballs. We suspect we'll find out soon enough, as this all seems to be unraveling at internet speed.