NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The U.S. Coast Guard believes there’s a link between the probable hoax call that prompted a massive search off the coast of New Jersey and another one that took place in Texas last month.
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Coast Guard Captain Christopher Hitchen said both calls share certain similarities, including voice and manner of speaking.
Last week, an immense search and rescue operation was launched east of Sandy Hook when a distress call came in reporting that a luxury yacht called the “Blind Date” had exploded 17 miles off shore.
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The caller said that 21 people aboard managed to get onto lifeboats, but that some were seriously burned. A second call came in later reporting that three of the people aboard had died, officials said.
In the distress call, which was released by the Coast Guard, the male caller said there was an explosion on board and that the boat was taking on water.
“We have 21 souls on board, 20 in the water,” the caller said to the Coast Guard. “I have three deceased on board, nine injured because of the explosion we’ve had. I’m in three feet of water on the bridge. I’m going to stay by the radio as long as I can before I have to go overboard.”
More than 200 first responders rushed to the scene, including Coast Guard crews, NYPD helicopters, the FDNY, New Jersey State police and Nassau County police, officials said.
The total cost of the operation, including aircraft and boat costs, is so far estimated at $318,000, the Coast Guard said. Officials said that does not include the cost of triage and ambulances that were set up on shore to receive wounded passengers.
Officials later determined that the distress call came from somewhere in New Jersey or southern New York on a channel not normally used for emergencies.
Last month, the Coast Guard searched for six people after getting a call saying they had to abandon a sinking fishing boat off Galveston.
According to the Coast Guard, both calls originated from land and the caller specifically contacted a Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service.
The caller also used the same terminology in both calls including the phrases “taking on water” and “souls” to describe people aboard.
The Coast Guard is offering a $3,000 reward.
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