Coast Guard suspends search for two boaters; investigates distress call as probable hoax

Operation PurpleCRESCENT BEACH, Fla. — The Coast Guard suspended its search for two boaters who reportedly abandoned ship three miles off of Crescent Beach Wednesday, at 10:41 a.m., Thursday.

Coast Guard search crews covered an area of approximately 87 square nautical miles in an area stretching between five miles north and five miles south of Matanzas Inlet, Florida. The Coast Guard search lasted approximately 17 hours.

There has been no sighting of the vessel or any debris. No vessels have been reported overdue to the Coast Guard, nor has anyone been reported missing to the Coast Guard. It is not known who the boaters are or where they are from.

An investigation by the Coast Guard has led to information indicating this to be a probable hoax.

The Coast Guard takes all calls for help seriously and highly advises the public against placing hoax calls. Hoax calls are illegal and can be prosecuted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service. They also significantly detract from the Coast Guard’s ability to respond to emergencies. An individual who knowingly and willfully communicates a false distress message to the Coast Guard, or causes the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed, is guilty of a class D felony; subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000; and liable for all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the individual’s action.

“Hoax calls are a common problem for the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Chris Svencer, the incident management chief at Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, Florida. “Hoaxes put our personnel at risk, divert assets from actual search and rescue cases, and waste taxpayer dollars.”

The Coast Guard will investigate this case further.

Watchstanders in the Sector Jacksonville command center were notified of the situation at 5:48 p.m., Wednesday, by a VHF radio call from the boat operator. The report stated that the operator and his wife had abandoned their sailing vessel Jupiter and entered a dinghy. The operator also reported his sailing vessel was taking on water.

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Mayport, Florida, were launched to respond. A crew aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Savannah, Georgia was also launched. A helicopter crew from Naval Station Mayport and boat crews from Customs and Border Patrol has also assisted in the search.

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