Sheriff Doubts Balloon Escapade Was a Hoax
Larimer County, Colo., Sheriff Jim Alderden says his investigators will re-interview the family on Saturday after media reports raised questions about whether the balloon incident was a hoax perpetrated by the Heenes, who live in Fort Collins.
Alderden says he was convinced after talking and being with the parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, on Thursday that they "were being honest with us," but "based on the level of skepticism, it's incumbent on us to go back to the family."
Responding to questions about whether the saucer-shaped balloon could have even held the 37-lb. boy, Alderden says his department spoke with a professor at Colorado State University who calculated that the balloon had a payload of 80 pounds and that it was "conceivable at the time, and remains conceivable."
Although he didn't have a total cost for the rescue operation, Alderden says in Larimer County there were 80 people who spent 650 combined hours. He says unless the family is charged with making a false report, they will not be asked to repay rescue expenses.
Tina Chavez, who lives behind the Heenes and calls herself a close family friend, believes there is no hoax. "They are distraught," she says, calling them, "a wonderful family."