They’re an unusual family at the center of a bizarre story: Their UFO-looking helium balloon soared from their home at the same time their 6-year-old son disappeared – with the boy later found safely at home after a nationally televised air-and-ground search.
So who are the Heenes of Fort Collins, Colo.?
Reality TV fans may remember Richard and wife Mayumi from the ABC show Wife Swap. During their episode, which aired on the show’s premiere in October 2008, they switched with the Martels, a Connecticut family with a childproofing business. The family’s segment proved so popular that viewers voted them back onto a March 2009 episode – this time with a St. Augustine, Fla., couple whose wife earns a living as a psychic.
Even by the outrageous standards of reality television, the Heenes stand out for their thrill-seeking lifestyle that sometimes put their own children on the edge of danger. As Mayumi told the Coloradoan newspaper last year: “Wife Swap was just another adventure for us as a family.”
According to published reports and those who know the family, Richard is an amateur meteorologist with an intense passion for tracking storms and chasing tornadoes. Every spring during tornado season, Richard loads his wife, Mayumi, and their three boys, Bradford, 10, Ryo, 8, and Falcon – the boy at the center of the balloon ordeal – into the family SUV and head off across the countryside in search of nasty weather.