New Jersey yacht explosion investigated as hoax

June 12, 2012 2:16:01 PM PDT
Authorities believe a reported yacht explosion off the New Jersey coast was likely a hoax, and the Coast Guard wants to find out who is responsible.


The costly rescue mission is now a criminal investigation, after the Coast Guard and emergency crews from New Jersey and New York raced to respond to a distress call that reported that the yacht, called "Blind Date," had exploded about 17 miles off Sandy Hook.

The transmission came in around 4:20 p.m. Monday, and the caller said that 21 people onboard had made it off the ship and seven were injured.

The Coast Guard has released audio from the distress call. You can hear it by playing the video above or by CLICKING HERE.

Six hours after the call was made, the crews had found nothing. Despite an extensive search involving an army of emergency personnel, no victims or wreckage from an explosion were found.

Onshore, dozens of first responders and medical crews were ready to treat the injured.

Officials say the cost of the search is at $88,000 and rising, not inclusive of costs to the NYPD and FDNY, which assisted in the operation.

Coast guard officials said the distress call originated over New Jersey or southern New York, probably over land. The call came in over radio and was only picked up by one antenna, making exact triangulation of the call's origin impossible. They also say the call came in over a Coast Guard channel, but not the channel used for emergency transmissions.

Two calls came in, each about 20 seconds. Officials said the caller was cool and collected, giving detail about injuries and the state of the ship. They determined the scenario to be a hoax around 10 p.m., though they had suspicions only two hours after receiving the call.

Members of the community were outraged.

Eileen Douglas lives in the area and was riding her bike through the park when she saw a flurry of police and fire activity.

"If it was a hoax, I think it's terrible," she said. 'We live in a beach community. We have lots of people visiting, even during the week, and to have every emergency vehicle you can imagine to be out here in this spot, any problems that would happen at any other beach, they would be shorthanded."

Making a false distress call is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search.

Last year, the Coast Guard received a fake distress call in Seabright, New Jersey. Officials say that emergency response cost upwards of $90,000.

The Coast Guard is offering a reward of $3,000 for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with information regarding false distress calls is encouraged to anonymously contact the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service at 646-872-5774 or 212-668-7048.

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