Balloon boy's family was on 'Wife Swap'

Boy found safe after brother said he floated off in balloon

NEW YORK -- The family of a 6-year-old boy who set off a nationally televised scramble when he was thought to be in a balloon over Colorado has been featured twice in the ABC show "Wife Swap."

Falcon, the son of Richard and Mayumi Heene of Fort Collins, Colo., was found hiding in a cardboard box in his garage attic. Television viewers knew Falcon's family from "Wife Swap," where they last appeared in March after fans of the show voted to have them featured again in its 100th episode.

In "Wife Swap," two mothers trade places for a few weeks. Producers try to match families with wildly different attitudes and lifestyles to see if sparks fly.

When they first appeared last fall, the Heenes were described as storm chasers who lived on the edge and were matched with a Connecticut family whose father had a child-proofing business designed to make things as safe as possible for children.

That family was considered a good contrast to the Heenes, who often slept in their clothes to be ready to chase storms at a moment's notice.

"At home the family are as chaotic as a twister: the kids have no table manners and throw themselves around the house, and while Richard devotes every moment to his research, he expects Mayumi to cook, clean and run the house without any help," ABC said in a summary of their first episode.

ABC said they devote their lives to scientific research, including "building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm."

In the second "Wife Swap" episode, they were matched with the family whose mother believed she was a psychic who could control the weather.

The Heenes' inadvertent television role on Thursday was as a family who seemed destined for tragedy when everything came out alright in the end.

Cable news networks cast aside regular programming to show pictures of the flying saucer-like helium balloon floating through the skies of Colorado. They acted under the assumption that Falcon was aboard, based on a report that he was seen getting into the balloon.

"It's got everybody freaked out," said Fox News Channel's Shepard Smith, "and why wouldn't it?"

Aviation experts were brought in to speculate how far the balloon might travel, and whether authorities could do anything to bring it down. When the balloon finally landed, authorities approached and found the boy wasn't in it.

The networks then pursued reports that something had been seen falling from the balloon.

Ultimately, the Heenes' latest reality show had a happy ending.