NEW YORK (MyFoxPhilly) – The US Coast Guard has suspended the search for a yacht off the coast of New Jersey and is treating an emergency call detailing the apparent explosion of the vessel on Monday afternoon as a possible hoax.
A yacht was reported to have exploded, leaving 21 passengers, some believed injured, floating in life rafts about 17 miles (27km) from shore.
The Coast Guard received a report of an explosion aboard a vessel named Blind Date at 4:23 p.m., spokesman Charles Rowe told The Wall Street Journal. Everyone aboard was said to have made it on to life rafts before the yacht reportedly sank.
Nine passengers had been reported as injured, according to a spokesman for the National Park Service, which was helping to organize ambulances waiting to meet the passengers at Sandy Hook, N.J.
However, hours after the initial reports, rescuers had yet to announce finding the wreckage or locating any passengers in the water.
The Coast Guard issued a statement announcing it had called off the search late Monday, adding that, “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.”
It also said it offers 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 US Coast Guard.
Coast Guard spokeswoman Jetta Disco told NBC News that they had received false distress calls in the past. Disco also said she found many vessels with the name Blind Date in their database.
Owners of multiple charter companies that own vessels under the name Blind Date said their boats were not involved in an explosion, the Journal reported.
The Coast Guard dispatched rescue vessels from stations at Jones Beach, N.Y., and Sandy Hook, as well as helicopters from Atlantic City and Cape Cod.
The New York Police Department also dispatched helicopters, a Coast Guard spokesman said.