Colorado Guard joins 'balloon boy' rescue efforts
October 16, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 16, 2009) -- The Colorado Army National Guard joined rescue efforts for a 6-year-old boy believed adrift in a homemade hot air balloon Thursday.
Colorado Citizen-Soldiers used UH-60 Black Hawk and OH-58 Kiowa helicopters to provide military assistance to civilian authorities, who believed Falcon Heene was inside a silver Mylar balloon adrift over the northern Colorado plains, said National Guard Bureau officials.
The Federal Aviation Administration and sheriff's deputies were told that the experimental helium hot air balloon broke free from its tethers at the Heenes' home in Fort Collins with the boy inside.
The Colorado National Guard's Joint Operations Center responded to an Air Force Rescue Coordination Center request for assistance to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office, said Colorado National Guard officials.
The Black Hawk crew included observers and medical personnel.
The Black Hawk had rescue capabilities in the event that an airborne rescue was required, First Air Force reported.
The Colorado National Guard stood down from the mission after local authorities determined that the boy was safe in his home.
CNN reported that the 20-foot-long, 5-foot-high balloon, which crashed gently in Weld County some 50 miles from the Heene home, had reached 7,000 feet above the ground during the two hours it drifted.
Located under First Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center is the agency responsible for coordinating on-land federal search and rescue activities in the 48 contiguous United States, Mexico and Canada. It directly ties to the Federal Aviation Administration's alerting system.
The boy's father reportedly called the FAA first before he called 911.
(Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill writes for the National Guard Bureau.)