A Hoax Marine Radio Call Sends Coast Guard, Police and Firefighters to False Alarm Near Sandy Hook

Two hoax calls reporting an explosion on a motor yacht off New Jersey came from land, triggering a rescue effort that cost tens of thousands of dollars, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

A rescue mission of the Coast Guard, local police officers and firefighters, was launched after authorities received an emergency radio transmission about 4:20 p.m. Monday describing an explosion aboard a motor yacht with the yacht taking on water. At least two calls were received within about 5 minutes, which used the same radio transmission on Marine VHF radio. The caller reported the name of the boat as ‘Blind Date’ and reported the yacht was 17 nautical miles east of Sandy Hook with 21 people on board, 20 in the water, three deceased on board, and nine injured.

The caller had some knowledge of boating, reporting that several survivors were in life rafts equipped with beacons. The male caller on the radio added, “I’m gonna stay by the radio for as long as I can before I have to go overboard”

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

Marine VHF radio is installed on all large ships and most seagoing small craft. Marine VHF radio is used for a wide variety of purposes, including summoning rescue services and communicating with harbors, locks, bridges, marinas and other boats. Channel 16 (156.800 MHz) is used for international distress, safety and calling.

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