An emotional Heene family adamantly denied their son's brief disappearance coinciding with a weather balloon floating away from their backyard was a hoax.
Falcon Heene, the 6-year-old who was believed missing, said he was in the balloon, but then he got out to go into the attic and play. After he was found safe, Falcon said on television that the incident was done for a show.
Richard Heene, Falcon's father, told CBS' "The Early Show" Friday, his son was referring to a camera crew that had asked Falcon to reenact him climbing into the attic.
"After the initial interview in the front yard with all the cameras, I had walked in the house thinking everybody was behind me, went up to the garage and I noticed Falcon was climbing up into the joists in the garage. And then I guess Bradford was right there with him. But then I looked to the right and there's like 30 camera guys there and, anyway, one of the guys had asked if they could show him how he got up into the attic. And it was for a TV show. So that's what he was talking about."
Falcon admitted that that was what he was referring to, and also admitted that he had told his brother Bradford that he was going to "sneak inside" the balloon, but then he got out, leading to the belief that he was inside when it went aloft from the family's backyard Thursday morning.
"And where did you go?" asked "Early Show" anchor Maggie Rodriguez?
"To the attic to play," Falcon said.
The boy had fled to the garage, climbing a pole into the rafters and hiding in a cardboard box at some point after being scolded by his father for having gone inside the balloon, and was never in the craft during its two-hour, 50-mile journey through two counties. "I yelled at him. I'm really sorry I yelled at him," Richard Heene said, choking up and hugging Falcon during a news conference.
"I was in the attic and he scared me because he yelled at me," Falcon said. "That's why I went in the attic."
Heene said the balloon wasn't tethered properly, and "it was a mishap."
"I'm not going to lay blame on anybody," he said.
"I Don't Want to Repeat the Moment Any More in My Life"
On "The Early Show", Mayumi Heene said that when Bradford told her Falcon was inside, "We searched the whole house to look for Falcon and we couldn't find him, so we took Bradford's word."
"I don't know how to describe, I just cannot tell," she said when asked to describe her feelings when she believed her boy had ascended in the balloon. "I don't want to repeat the moment any more in my life."
"The very second Bradford told me, I didn't believe him," Riochard Heene said, "so we an around the house yelling for Falcon. We searched outside the yard. And then it was building and building and building, the reality that this might be true.
"And then I asked Bradford to get on the roof - I put a ladder on the roof - and I said keep watching and find out where [the balloon]'s going so we can report this. And I just pictured little Falcon inside, you know, being frightened and cold. What if he fell out? And, of course, the high voltage supply that we have on board, if he had touched that, he could have been electrocuted.
"Yeah, I don't want to relive anything like that again."
The bizarre saga started when the giant silvery balloon floated away from the family's yard Thursday morning, sparking a frantic rescue operation that involved military helicopters and briefly halted some departures from Denver International Airport.
Richard said he believed Falcon was alive inside the balloon but acknowledged the dangers he faced.
"Well, my immediate thought you was, yeah, he's still alive inside the balloon," he told Rodriguez. "Rhio said he couldn't see him anymore. He said it was a little dot in the sky, and I couldn't see. And all I could think about was perhaps an aircraft would fly in and smack into him, you know. And my first thought was how do we get him out? Who do we call, you know, when something like that happens?"
Once the balloon gently touched down in a field with no sign of the boy, Richard Heene said he feared the worst.
"Oh, man, when when the police officers came in and closed the door and wanted to tell me something, and he paused, and I thought, 'This can't be good,' and then he said it hit the ground and there was nobody in it.
"And I immediately thought he had fallen out. And I was crushed, you know. Completely drained me, he said. "What was really horrible is the images going through my mind, scenarios that could have been played out. And the hardest part was visualizing him falling out and hitting the ground."
Then, more than two hours after the balloon had landed, Sheriff Jim Alderden turned to reporters during a news conference, gave a thumbs-up and said 6-year-old Falcon Heene was at his house.
"Apparently he's been there the whole time," he said.
Falcon said he came out of the attic after having fallen asleep, and was first spotted by a lady cop with a dog. "Mayumi immediately screamed and I turned around and there was Falcon. It was a huge, huge sigh of relief," Richard Heene said.
He said there's no room for being upset at the boy right now.
"We'll sit down and have more family talks and more family meetings and discuss things like hiding places," he said. "I mean, the kids like to hide in the cabinets. They hide behind the sofa. And we'd like to now know where their hiding places are. If there's a fire, they could get trapped. So there's going to be no more secrets now."
The boys agreed.
Richard thanked all those who joined in the search: "Everyone who helped out, Sheriff's Department, National Guard, the news, everybody, they were just incredible. I just can't believe that that many people poured their hearts out and helped."
Allegation of Publicity Stunt
The boys' parents - Richard Heene and his wife, Mayumi - are storm chasers who appeared twice in the ABC reality show "Wife Swap," most recently in March. The show promoted the Heene family as storm chasers who also "devote their time to scientific experiments that include looking for extraterrestrials and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm."
CBS News Correspondent Ben Tracy reports the Heene boys have several videos on YouTube.
Richard Heene said the family had been working on a low-altitude vehicle that people could take out of their garages and use to hover over traffic. But it wasn't supposed to go higher than 20 feet or so, he said.
Richard Heene adamantly denied the notion that the whole thing was a big publicity stunt. "That's horrible after the crap we just went through. No."
During a live interview with CNN, Falcon said he had heard his family calling his name.
"You did?" Mayumi Heene said.
"Why didn't you come out?" Richard Heene said.
Falcon answered, "You had said that we did this for a show."
Later, Richard Heene bristled when the family was asked to clarify and said he didn't know what his son meant. He didn't ask his son what he meant by "a show."
"I'm kind of appalled after all the feelings that I went through up and down that you guys are trying to suggest something else," Richard Heene said.
The sheriff was already planning to meet with investigators Friday to see if the case warranted further investigation. After the CNN interview, Alderden told the AP: "It has raised some questions. Our personnel who were dealing with the family all day are convinced this is a legitimate incident and
Still, in light of the interview, Alderden said, "We intend to go back and further ask the family to cooperate with our investigation through answering more questions and resolve this issue."
Maggie Rodriguez's interview of the family on "The Early Show":
Watch CBS News Videos Online