The father of a boy feared to have been carried away in a balloon angrily denied the drama which gripped millions was a publicity stunt.
Six-year-old Falcon Heene was found safe at his home in Colorado hiding in an attic after the balloon came to earth empty following a helicopter chase that was televised live.
His older brother had apparently told his parents that Falcon had climbed into a compartment on the weather balloon before it was mysteriously released from their garden.
The Heene family is no stranger to publicity, appearing on the ABC show “Wife Swap” and the boys featuring in a rap music video on YouTube. And Falcon appeared to suggest he had been told what to do when he and his father Richard were interviewed on a US show after the incident.
When his father asked why he did not emerge from hiding when his name was being called out at home, Falcon said: “You had said that we did this for a show.”
Mr Heene bristled yesterday when the family was asked to clarify and said he did not know what his son meant.
“I'm kind of appalled after all the feelings that I went through, up and down, that you guys are trying to suggest something else,” he said.
Earlier, when asked if the balloon chase was a publicity stunt he replied: “That's horrible. After the crap we just went through. No. No, no, no.”
Local Sheriff Jim Alderden said authorities did not believe at this point it was a hoax but he would meet investigators to decide whether to look into the matter further.
It was five hours from the time the oldest boy reported that Falcon, the youngest, had climbed into the saucer-shaped balloon that had drifted off, setting off a search that included military helicopters and a plan to either lower a person to the craft of place weights on the balloon to bring it down.
Officials rerouted planes around the balloon's flight path and briefly shut down Denver International Airport.
The saucer-like craft tipped precariously at times before gliding to the ground in a field.
With the child nowhere in sight, investigators searched the balloon's path. Several people reported seeing something fall from the craft while it was in the air and yellow crime-scene tape was placed around the home.
Then, came news that Falcon had been hiding in a box in rafters in the garage.
Mr Heene said the family had been tinkering with the balloon and that he scolded Falcon for getting inside a compartment on the craft. It was designed to hover about 50 to 100 feet from the ground but it broke loose from its tether.
Falcon's brother said he had seen him inside the compartment before it took off and that is why they thought he was in there when it launched. However, the boy was never in the balloon during its two-hour, 50-mile journey through two counties.