Where in the World Is Balloon Boy?

After a harrowing flight, a balloon reportedly carrying a child lands only for rescuers to discover that nobody is inside

This article is from the archive of our partner .

When the day began, few could have anticipated that a saucer-shaped hot-air balloon flying erratically over the skies of Colorado this afternoon would attract such national and global attention. But the news that 6-year-old Falcon Heene had been the sole passenger aboard his family's homemade aircraft upon take-off changed everything: Cable-news, Twitter, Google, Facebook, indeed, the whole Internet followed the course of the balloon as it traversed the sky and finally came to a relatively soft landing at around 3:30 PM EST. However, as the first emergency-respondents discovered, the balloon was actually empty. The din became even more unclear when it was revealed that Heene's parents were reality-TV participants on the ABC show "Wife Swamp." As of 5 PM, the world continues to wait with bated breath, wondering where Falcon could possibly be, and whether it was all just a hoax to begin with. Updated, 6:20 p.m. Hot Air blogger Allahpundit refers to an NBC report the boy has been found safe at home. He also has a fantastic running-timeline/commentary of the events.

  • Overwhelming Twitter CNET's Caroline McCarthy was amazed at Twitter user's response time: "The microblogging service's timeline temporarily slowed to a crawl and its trending topics were filled with tags like Colorado, Denver, and #balloonboy...My colleague Stephen Shankland ran a test and found that in a 30-second span, 836 tweets mentioned the word 'balloon.'"
  • Impossible to Intercept  Resigning himself to a run-down of aviation facts, The Globe and Mail's Peter Cheney made the case for why "rescuing a child in a runaway ballon...is nearly impossible." He compared the physical properties of balloons to other aircraft, noting that a blimp theoretically offered the best solution. However, all of his points were made moot when the balloon finally touched down on its own.
  • Father-Son Project Gone Wrong  TechCrunch's Jimin Brelsford commented on the reports that the balloon was a pet project of "storm-chaser" father Richard Heene. "Father-son projects are quite the American tradition. Everything from pine-box derby racers, to bike repairs, to experimental aircraft it seems. Wait what?" He later updated the post to reflect the ambiguity of the situation: "There is some talk of a hoax. Either the kid fell off during the initial ascent or this is a strange, strange hoax."
  • Fooling Everyone?  The freshest reports suggest that the entire story could have been a hoax swallowed hook, line and sinker by an overzealous, scoop-hungry media. CJR's Megan Garber recast comments from MSNBC's David Shuster as "highly inappropriate," yet he was among the first to ask "Did the boy fallout along the way, or this part of some hoax, an effort for attention by the family a lot of people are already suggesting is a strange family to begin with?" Shortly thereafter, Greg Mitchell implicated the media for acting on impulse, without verifying their sources: "A local sheriff's spokesman has now said they believe boy never got in the craft and may be hiding in the neighborhood. In any case, the press and news agencies reported for hours that a boy was in the balloon, without many qualifiers, even though the only witness was a sibling who saw him climb inside."
  • We're Sick For Watching It In the First Place chastised several bloggers. Salon's Heather Havrilesky provided readers with a thorough summary of the story thus-far before turning self-accusatory: "However this heart-stopping spectacle ends, it momentarily transformed us into 21st century rubberneckers, anxious to make ourselves sick over the tragic news story of the moment." Offering a comparable indictment of the media apparatus, Mediaite's Colby Hall was unrepentant for an initial post in which he called the cable-news coverage "just wrong" because it could have shown the child getting hurt or dying.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.