Seconds of panic, hours of drama: N.J. boat explosion call investigated as hoax

Posted by on Jun 12, 2012 at 8:12 am

The Coast Guard will release more information at 10 a.m. today on its investigation into a possible mayday call hoax which set off a massive response involving dozens of rescue vehicles and hundreds of emergency personnel.

At 4:20 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard received a frantic mayday call. The call was brief — about 30 seconds — but the details specific: There had been an explosion aboard a yacht called the Blind Date, 17 miles off the coast of Sandy Hook. According to the Coast Guard, the male caller said the vessel had sunk, but all 21 people on board had made it to life rafts. The crew was unable to send a GPS positioning because the vessel had lost power, the caller said.

At least seven people were injured, the caller told the Coast Guard. A good Samaritan sailing vessel was aiding the injured, the Coast Guard said.

The call set off a response that brought dozens of rescue vehicles, state police medevac helicopters and 200 emergency personnel from all over New Jersey, and as far away as Long Island and Cape Cod, to the Monmouth County shore. At sea, Coast Guard helicopters furiously searched the ocean waters for wreckage and survivors.

But five hours after that initial call, the search had turned up nothing.

No boat. No people. No debris. No signal from an emergency beacon, which would have activated upon hitting water.

By nightfall, rescue crews were sent home and the search was suspended.

“The investigation has begun into whether or not this was a hoax,” Coast Guard spokesman Erik Swanson said shortly after 9 p.m. Monday night. “The search has been suspended pending further information that leads us to believe there is a real emergency.”

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