At 4:20 p.m. Monday the Coast Guard received a frantic 30-second mayday call: A yacht named Blind Date had exploded 17 miles off Sandy Hook, N.J., and all 21 people on board had made it into life rafts.
The call set off a frantic search by the Coast Guard and 200 emergency response personnel from all over New Jersey and as far away as Long Island, N.Y., and Cape Cod, Mass. Dozens of rescue vehicles and state police medevac helicopters also were deployed.
By nightfall the search had been suspended and an investigation into a possible hoax had begun. The response cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"The investigation has begun into whether or not this was a hoax," Coast Guard spokesman Erik Swanson said shortly after 9 p.m. Monday. "The search has been suspended, pending further information that leads us to believe there is a real emergency."
The mayday call identified the yacht in trouble as Blind Date. The website VesselTracker shows three boats with that name. It was unclear whether any of them had been in the area, according to a report by the New York Times.
A 164-foot Trinity yacht named Blind Date is in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., preparing for a cruise to the Mediterranean, according to a statement on behalf of the builder.
The Coast Guard was scheduled to release more information about the investigation at 10 a.m. today. Making a false distress call is a federal crime punishable by a maximum penalty of 5 to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.