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Runaway balloon built by family known for extreme science

  • Story Highlights
  • Dad of boy who untethered balloon is storm chaser, "science detective"
  • Richard Heene, wife and boys conducted extreme experiments together
  • Dad said that despite appearance of danger, "my family is never put in harm's way"
  • "Wife Swap" family spent time making "research-gathering flying saucer"
By Mallory Simon
CNN
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(CNN) -- The family of a boy who is believed to have set adrift a balloon in Colorado is known for storm chasing and conducting extreme science experiments together, according to the father's MySpace page.

Several media outlets offered to help track the balloon with their helicopters, sheriff's spokeswoman says.

The Heene family, known for storm chasing together, appeared on ABC's "Wife Swap."

Richard Heene describes himself in his profile as a storm chaser and the host of a documentary series and radio show that investigates
"the mysteries of science."

The Fort Collins family was also featured on the ABC show "Wife Swap."

"When the Heene family aren't chasing storms, they devote their time to scientific experiments that include looking for extraterrestrials and building a research-gathering flying saucer to send into the eye of the storm," the show's Web site said.

The flying balloon created a wave of worry after officials believed that one of the Heenes' sons had climbed inside before it became untethered and flew away. When the helium balloon finally landed, CNN affiliate KMGH-TV reported, no one was aboard.

Officials said Thursday that the boy was found in a box in the attic at his family's Fort Collins home, according to authorities.

A neighbor who identified himself as Mark told KMGH that Thursday morning he saw the family outside working on the balloon together.

An undated picture on the site shows the family standing behind an object that appears similar to that seen flying above Colorado.

Heene is a self-described obsessed "science detective" working with a former meteorologist to try to track storms in hopes of helping and working toward more accurate weather forecasting. Video Who are the Heenes? »

In 2005, he flew around Hurricane Wilma's perimeter, and in 2007 he told the Denver Post he hoped his work would help save lives down the line.

The Heenes conduct elaborate storm-chasing experiments as a family, he told the Post.

"I think they really are having fun," Mayumi Heene, Richard's wife, told the Denver Post of her children. "They get so much more that they can't get from any other entertainment."

Richard Heene has always thought his kids should be able to be kids -- and enjoy life while they are young.

"To some people, it may sound dangerous, but my family is never put in harm's way," Richard Heene told the Fort Collins Coloradoan when he was being featured on "Wife Swap."

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He said he tracks the storms direction and location and makes sure his family would never be at risk.

"I'm the only one ever in danger," he said.

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