SANDY HOOK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The Coast Guard has suspended the search and rescue mission that followed a distress call Monday afternoon about a Yacht explosion off the New Jersey coast.
The emergency call, which came in at around 4:20 p.m., reported that 21 people aboard the yacht — said to be about 17 1/2 miles out to sea east of Sandy Hook — had abandoned the vessel known as the “Blind Date” and gotten into life-rafts.
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The Coast Guard, local police and fire departments conducted searches of the area Monday afternoon and evening, but were unable to locate any debris or passengers. As a result, the incident will be investigated as a possible hoax, officials said.
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Chief Warrant Officer Troy Loining was among the would-be rescuers who rushed to the area but came back to shore empty handed and perplexed.
“We’re scratching our heads. I mean nobody’s confirmed it’s a hoax, yet nothing’s been found — no debris, no injuries, no victims, no nothing,” Loining told CBS 2′s Lou Young.
Officials will be holding a press briefing Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.
Monday’s search operation included two Coast Guard boat crews and four Coast Guard helicopter crews, which searched about 638 nautical miles. Response units from the NYPD, FDNY, New Jersey State Police and Nassau County Police Department also aided in the search effort, officials said.
Coast Guard spokesman Erik Swanson said the entire episode was an “unusual situation.” The initial report of an explosion came from a solar-powered radio from someone officials believe was a passenger on the yacht.
The Coast Guard said it offers a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of anyone responsible for making a false distress or hoax call to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Anyone with information regarding false distress calls can anonymously contact the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service at 646-872-5774 or 212-668-7048.
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