After more than an hour-long flight that covered more than 50 miles (80 km) across three counties, the balloon landed about 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Denver International Airport. Authorities closed down the Denver airport and sent several National Guard helicopters and local police in pursuit. After the balloon landed and the boy was found not to be inside, authorities began a manhunt of the entire area, raising fears that he had fallen from the balloon; it was reported that an object had detached from the balloon and fallen to the ground. Later that afternoon the boy was reported to have been hiding in his house's attic the entire time.
Suspicions soon arose that the incident was a hoax and publicity stunt engineered by the boy's parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, particularly following the Heenes' interview with Wolf Blitzer on Larry King Live that evening. In response to a question about why he was hiding, Falcon said to his father, "You guys said that, um, we did this for the show." On October 18, Larimer County sheriff Jim Alderden announced his conclusion that the incident was a hoax and that the parents would likely face several felony charges. Richard Heene plead guilty on November 13, 2009, to the charge of attempting to influence a public servant. On December 23, 2009, Richard Heene was sentenced to 90 days in jail and Mayumi Heene to 20 days of weekend jail; Richard was also ordered to pay $36,000 in restitution.