The distress call came into the Coast Guard, who immediately dispatched rescue helicopters and boats.
U.S. Coast Guard, motor yacht, Blind Date — how do you copy? We have three deceased, nine injured. We have had an explosion on board, that’s why we’re taking on water. I’m in about 3 1/2 feet of water on the bridge right now, I’m going to stay by as long as I can before I have to bail. Electronic array is down, I’m on a solar-powered radio right now. Our last known position was 17.5 miles due east of Gateway National Recreation Area Sandy Hook Point, I believe it was. (Click here for full transcript.)
But there was no sign of a yacht or an explosion. There were no survivors in the water. The Coast Guard now considers the call a hoax and estimates that the 5 1/2 hour search cost more than $318,000. A $3,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for making the call. Making a false call is a federal felony, with a maximum penalty of six years in prison, a $250,000 fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search. The radio call is now believed to have originated from Southern New York or New Jersey.
The Washington Post reports: From the Canadian border down to Sandy Hook alone, the Coast Guard received 300 suspected hoax reports last year. Officials have to take such calls seriously, especially those like Monday’s, which contained minute details, authorities said. With other hoax calls, “you can tell immediately they’re from children,” Capt. Gregory Hitchen, deputy commander of the Coast Guard in New York, said at a news conference Tuesday. “This one was somewhat calm but was giving a convincing story as to what the nature of his emergency was.”