Yacht Explosion Distress Call Near Sandy Hook A Hoax?

According to several news reports; There was an emergency radio transmission made around 4:20 p.m. Monday, June 11, 2012.  The motor yacht, “The Blind Date”, was reportedly 17 nautical miles east of Sandy Hook, NJ with 21 people aboard and several people were injured from an explosion on board.  The caller also claimed everyone on board made it into life rafts and the vessel sank.  Commander Kenneth Pierro, of Coast Guard Sector New York, said that more than 200 first responders and good Samaritans set up staging areas and that Coast Guard crews and NYPD helicopters conducted a search and rescue for the reported life rafts.  After a few hours of searching they found no sign of any distress in the water, life rafts or people. After almost 5 hours after the call came in the Coast Guard determined the call was likely a hoax.

At a news conference this morning (June 12, 2012) Deputy Commander Gregory Hitchen said that the emergency call came from a radio that was being used by someone on land, not on the water and said the caller gave a “specific blow-by-blow” on how the boat was filling up with water.  The two calls are said to have come in on a radio positioned somewhere in New Jersey or southern New York, possibly Staten Island and came in on a Coast Guard channel that is not typically used for emergencies.  “Many hoax calls, you can tell immediately they’re from children,” he said. “This one was somewhat calm but was giving a convincing story as to what the nature of his emergency was.”

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. Last year, The Coast Guard and other state and local agencies responded to more than 60 suspected hoax in the northern New Jersey, New York City and Hudson River areas.

Almost exactly a year ago a similar false distress call was made.  In the early morning hours of June 14, 2011, a distress call came in from a 33-foot sailboat named “Courtney Lynn”, claiming the vessel was taking on water. Less than an hour later, another call was made claiming the boat was 90 percent submerged, and the four boaters were transferring to a small gray dinghy.  A 10-hour search, costing almost $88,000, turned up no sign of the vessel or boaters.  An investigation was launched and as of today no one has been prosecuted.

We, at Boating on the Hudson Magazine, take boating safety extremely serious and would hate to think that someone would make an emergency distress call as a joke.  The Coast Guard is offering a $3,000 reward for information leading to the prosecution of the person or persons responsible for the false distress call.  If you have any information please contact the Coast Guard Activities New York at 718-354-4227 (or go here: https://homeport.uscg.mil/mycg/portal/ep/portDirectory.do?tabId=1&cotpId=2)


WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!  Let us know your feelings on this “hoax”.  If caught, do you think the penalty is enough?  Why do you think someone would create such an elaborate “hoax”?