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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Explained: What is the ‘balloon boy hoax’ for which a US couple was pardoned?

In October 2009, Richard Heene and his wife Mayumi claimed that their son, Falcon Heene, had been carried away by a homemade UFO-shaped helium balloon.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 31, 2020 1:15:35 pm
balloon boy hoax, balloon boy pardons, what was the balloon boy case, balloon boy parents, express explained, indian expressIn this December 23, 2009 photo, Richard and Mayumi Heene leave court after sentencing, in Fort Collins, Colo. (Photo: AP)

Colorado’s governor Jared Polis pardoned a US couple who claimed 13 years ago that their six-year-old son had been carried away by a helium balloon. The parents pleaded guilty in 2009 in a Colorado court, saying they made false claims in order to promote a reality TV show.

What is the ‘balloon boy hoax’?

In October 2009, Richard Heene and his wife Mayumi claimed that their son, Falcon Heene, had been carried away by a homemade UFO-shaped helium balloon. Their claims prompted search operations by two Colorado National Guard helicopters and dozens of emergency responders as video footage of the floating helium balloon made national news.

As per media reports, the video footage showed a large silver-colored balloon resembling a spaceship that was drifting over northeastern Colorado’s landscape for over 90 minutes.

Hours after the ground and aerial rescue operations had resumed, local authorities learned that the boy had been hiding in the attic of their house in Fort Collins. Following this, the boy’s father served a month in jail, while his mother served 20 days. The two were also fined to pay $36,000.

Polis announced four commutations and eighteen pardons on Wednesday. In a statement, he said, “In the case of Richard and Mayumi Heene, the “balloon boy” parents, we are all ready to move past the spectacle from a decade ago that wasted the precious time and resources of law enforcement officials and the general public. Richard and Mayumi have paid the price in the eyes of the public, served their sentences, and it’s time for all of us to move on. It’s time to no longer let a permanent criminal record from the balloon boy saga follow and drag down the parents for the rest of their lives”.

While Mayumi pleaded guilty to False Reporting to Authorities in 2009, Heene pleaded guilty to Public Servant – Attempt to Influence in Larimer County, Colorado.

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