The voices on the 911 tapes sound distressed, and sincere. First a man, then a woman, in near hysteria telling a dispatcher about their 6-year-old son, who has taken flight on a homemade helium balloon shaped like a flying saucer.
The tapes, released by the Larimer County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Office, show that the boy’s parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, repeatedly mentioned the age of their son, Falcon, and are heavily larded with emotional and dramatic pauses and repetitions.
If it sounds like an act, law enforcement officials say that should come as no surprise. They believe the whole incident was a staged publicity stunt.
Sheriff Jim Alderden is pursuing charges against the couple at the center of the balloon saga —conspiracy, attempting to influence a public servant, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and false reporting to authorities.
The adventure that captivated the nation last Thursday began with a call to 911.
“I think my 6-year-old boy ... He got inside, and it took off,” Richard Heene tells the dispatcher.
“Ok, where is he at?” the dispatcher asks calmly.
“He’s in the air,” Heene replies. “He’s only 6,” he says, in a voice larded with stress. “He’s only 6.”
Heene’s wife, Mayumi, also spoke to a 911 dispatcher.
“It’s supposed to be tied down so it’s just floating, and it’s 20 feet up ... But I don’t know what happened to the tie. But it got loose or something. So it’s flying,” she says.
Attempting to sort out what’s actually happening, the dispatcher says, “All right, you think he’s flying around in the air somewhere?”
“Yes,” Mayumi Heene replies. “We can’t find 6-year-old Falcon. And, um, my other son said Falcon was at the bottom of the flying saucer. He said he was in there. But anyway, I tried to find him ... I tried to find him everywhere.”
At that point, the woman caller becomes incoherent, babbling and sobbing on the phone.
“OK, we’re going to get you ... help,” the dispatcher says. “Just stay on the phone with me.”