Page last updated at 22:38 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

US 'balloon boy' parents must pay $42,000 rescue bill

Falcon Heene, pictured on 15 October 2009
Falcon Heene was never in the balloon and was found hiding at home

A US couple who triggered a major alert by claiming their son was adrift in a helium balloon have been ordered to pay the $42,000 (£26,000) rescue bill.

The Colorado couple reported in October their son had been carried away by the balloon - causing a media drama.

Six-year-old Falcon Heene was finally found hiding at home. It later emerged the hoax was a bid to secure a TV deal.

Falcon's parents have pleaded guilty to a number of charges and face a sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

Their lawyer, David Lane, said on Tuesday that Richard Heene and his wife Mayumi had been ordered to pay restitution for the emergency services' rescue efforts.

Mr Lane said the Heenes cannot afford to pay the $42,000 bill.

Sentencing hearing

Falcon's parents are due to be sentenced at a hearing in Colorado.

TV news crews in the US tracked the balloon as it landed

Richard Heene has admitted attempting to influence a public servant. Mayumi Heene admits false reporting to the authorities.

Although the charges are punishable by jail terms, it is expected they will receive probation orders.

Millions of television viewers were gripped by live coverage of the drifting weather balloon which was feared to have Falcon on board.

Police carried out an intensive search for the boy after the balloon landed about 40 miles (64km) north of Denver and was found to be empty.

But it then transpired that the child was hiding at home and days later the couple were accused of the elaborate hoax - apparently an attempt to secure a deal for a reality TV show.

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Times Online Jail for parents who transfixed America with... - 4 hrs ago
Mail & Guardian Online Colorado parents sentenced for 'balloon boy' hoax - 6 hrs ago
The Independent Jail term for father whose balloon trick fooled world - 11 hrs ago
Sydney Morning Herald 'Balloon boy' parents jailed for hoax - 13 hrs ago
Jang Group Parents in 'balloon boy' hoax jailed - 13 hrs ago

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