Coast Guard suspends New Jersey search

1st Coast Guard District News
NEW YORK –Coast Guard rescue crews have suspended a search for four people who reportedly abandoned ship in the vicinity of Sandy Hook, N.J., Tuesday, June 14, 2011.

This case is now being investigated as a possible hoax call.

Making a false distress call is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of five to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, $8,000 civil penalty and the possible reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search.  Coast Guard and other state and local agencies have responded to 126 suspected hoax calls in the northern New Jersey, New York City and Hudson River region since January 2010.

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 those in actual distress at sea.

In response to this high number of calls, the Coast Guard is offering 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 in the area.  Anyone with information regarding false distress calls is encouraged to anonymously contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 646-872-5774.

Today’s Coast Guard search in the Sandy Hook area included one boat crew, two helicopter crews and a jet crew who searched approximately 600 square miles. Air, land and maritime units from the New Jersey State Police, Seabright, N.J., Middletown Township, N.J., Fairhaven, N.J., Atlantic Highlands, N.J., and Rumson, N.J., also conducted searches in the area.

The search started after Coast Guard Sector New York received a distress call reportedly from the crew of the sailing vessel Courtney Lynn, stating the vessel was taking on water.

Shortly before 4 a.m., the caller reporting the distress reported to the Coast Guard that the vessel was almost submerged and that they were planning to abandon the 33-foot sailboat and board an attached small gray dingy.

Communication with the sailing vessel crew was lost when crewmembers reportedly abandoned ship; they notified the Coast Guard that they did not have a handheld radio, flares or sound-producing device.

Today’s estimated cost for Coast Guard search assets was nearly $88,000.

The cost to operate Coast Guard assets is:

  • $14,439 per hour, per fixed wing aircraft
  • $8,640 per hour, per helicopter
  • $6,322 per hour, per cutter
  • $991 per hour, per small boat

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