SANDY HOOK, NEW JERSEY (BNO NEWS) -- The U.S. Coast Guard offered a $3,000 reward on Tuesday to find the person responsible for making a hoax distress call earlier this week, claiming that a yacht carrying nearly two dozen people had exploded off the coast of New Jersey, officials said.
Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service New York received a distress call via radio at approximately 4:20 p.m. local time on Monday from a person identifying himself as the captain of the yacht 'Blind Date', stating the vessel had suffered an explosion and that all 21 people on board were abandoning ship.
"We have 21 souls on board, 20 in the water right now," the caller said during the radio call, triggering a massive search-and-rescue operation. "I have three deceased on board, nine injured, because of the explosion we've had. I'm in 3 feet (1 meter) of water on the bridge. I'm going to stay by the radio as long as I can before I have to go overboard."
The search took place 17 nautical miles (31.4 kilometers) east of Sandy Hook and involved two Coast Guard boat crews, four Coast Guard aircraft crews, response units from the New York City Police Department, Fire Department of New York City, New Jersey State Police, and Nassau County Police Department. Good Samaritan boats also participated in the search, in which more than 200 first responders took part.
But rescue workers found no indication of a sunken vessel in what is a very heavily trafficked area of the ocean. "By about 10 o'clock, we decided to suspend active search with clear indications that it was a probable hoax," said U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commander Captain Gregory Hitchen. "Since we had fully [searched] the area, had not gotten any reports from any other boaters or mariners that they had seen a vessel in distress and also based on the fact that, as we investigated the radio transmissions, the lines of bearing from our antenna sites all pointed over land and not over water."
Investigators believe the radio call was made from somewhere in New York or New Jersey and have offered a $3,000 reward for information leading to the perpetrator of the hoax, which has cost an estimated $318,000. That amount does not include the cost of triage and ambulance stations which were stood up along the shoreline.
Making a false distress 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 Coast Guard Investigative Services is leading the investigation into the incident, which is believed to be the largest hoax in the United States since the infamous balloon boy hoax in October 2009.
(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org.) http://wire.bnonews.com/#g58532