DENVER, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- A 6-year-old Colorado boy whose parents feared he had fallen from a runaway balloon said he had hidden in the attic because his dad had scolded him.
"He scared me because he yelled at me," Falcon Heene said on CNN Thursday night. "That's why I went in the attic."
His father, Richard Heene, said he had scolded his son for fiddling with the homemade, saucer-shaped craft Thursday at the family's home in Fort Collins, near Denver.
But Falcon never left the ground when the silvery craft took flight, authorities said.
The 20-foot balloon's flight captivated millions of TV viewers as it drifted for more than two hours as high as 8,000 feet at speeds up to 30 mph.
With the boy nowhere in sight -- and TV news carrying live footage of much of the craft's 50-mile journey -- neither his parents nor others knew what to think.
The craft made a soft landing in a field not far from the Denver International Airport, and when rescuers found no one inside the passenger compartment, Falcon's father feared the worst.
"That tore me apart: The only thing I could think of was that he had fallen out," the father said.
Heene said the balloon apparently went airborne because it was not tethered properly.
He said he had thought Falcon went aloft because one of the boy's brothers had said he had seen him in the balloon.
The father said he did not watch the balloon's flight on television. He said he was praying for his son's safe return while awaiting word from police.
Heene, who conducts science experiments, chases storms and has been known to seek out extra-terrestrials, said the craft was an attempt at building a vehicle that would run on helium -- "like the Jetsons, I guess," he said, a reference to a space-age television cartoon that first aired in the 1960s.
He got testy when a reporter asked whether the whole thing was a hoax to attract media attention.
"That's horrible -- after the crap we just went through. No, no," he said.
ABC News reported Heene and his wife, Mayumi, had twice appeared on the ABC reality show "Wife Swap."
ABC's Web site said the Heenes spent time on "scientific experiments that include looking for extraterrestrials and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm."