Coast Guard Offers $3,000 Reward in New Jersey Hoax Distress Call Case

NEW YORK – The Coast Guard is offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for making a false distress call to the Coast Guard Monday, reporting a vessel explosion and sinking east of Sandy Hook, N.J.

Anyone with information regarding false distress calls is encouraged to anonymously contact the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service at 646-872-5774 or 212-668-7048.

Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service New York received a distress call at approximately 4:20 p.m., Monday, reportedly from the yacht Blind Date, stating the vessel suffered an explosion, seven people were injured and all 21 people reportedly aboard the yacht had abandoned ship into liferafts. A later call to the Coast Guard reported that three people aboard the boat had died, and that several people had 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns, and that people aboard were abandoning ship into liferafts.

Making a false distress call is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of five to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search. Coast Guard and other state and local agencies responded to more than 60 suspected hoax calls in the northern New Jersey, New York City and Hudson River region in 2011.

In addition to being a federal crime, false distress calls waste tax payer dollars, put Coast Guard and other first responders at unnecessary risk and can interfere with the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to actual distress at sea.

“More than 200 first responders assembled mass casualty receptions areas in Newark, and Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, N.J., preparing to receive the reported injured passengers,” said Cmdr. Kenneth Pierro, of Coast Guard Sector New York.

Monday’s Coast Guard search east of Sandy Hook included two Coast Guard boat crews and four Coast Guard helicopter crews, who searched approximately 638 square nautical miles. Response units from New York City Police Department, Fire Department of New York City, New Jersey State Police and Nassau County Police Department also conducted searches in the area.

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