The U.S. Coast Guard suspended a search for a yacht that reported an explosion off the New Jersey coast and said the emergency call may have been a hoax.
Four Coast Guard helicopters and two boats were dispatched to about 17 miles (27 kilometers) east of Sandy Hook and searched an area of 638 square nautical miles, according to a statement yesterday.
“There hasn’t been any signs of distress or debris that would indicate a vessel was in distress,” a spokeswoman, Jetta Disco, said in an interview.
The Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic Service in New York received the call for help about 4:20 p.m. local time, Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Brewer said in a telephone interview. The vessel, identifying itself as the Blind Date, reported there had been an explosion and that 21 people abandoned ship in life rafts, he said.
Besides its own crews, units from the New York City Fire Department, the New Jersey State Police and the Nassau County Police Department took part in the search, the Coast Guard said.
“More than 200 first responders assembled mass casualty receptions areas in Newark, and Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, New Jersey, preparing to receive the reported injured passengers,” Commander Kenneth Pierro said in the statement.
A reward of $1,000 was offered for information. Making a false distress call is a felony under federal law punishable by 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and requiring reimbursement for the cost of the search, the Coast Guard said.
Authorities responded to more than 60 suspected hoax calls in the New York City, northern New Jersey and Hudson River region in 2011, the Coast Guard said.
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