When the Coast Guard responded to reports of a yacht explosion off the coast of New Jersey, the urgency appeared real, and the ensuing search was massive.
In a calm voice, the caller described the sinking vessel and the causalities on board.
But after an exhausting five-hour search and at a cost of more than $300,000, the Coast Guard determined the distress call was bogus.
The Coast Guard Station in the Tampa Bay area says hoax calls are not only costly but dangerous.
They put the lives of boaters and rescue crews at risk.
Each year, the Coast Guard responds to 600 to 700 hoax calls and here in the Tampa Bay area, the numbers are just as troubling, explains Lt. Commander Mia Dutcher.
"I couldn't give you a fine number, but it's in the hundreds. It's very disturbing—not only is it taking up our resources that are not searching for real distress cases, it is causing the taxpayer thousands of dollars," Dutcher said.
Commander Dutcher, who supervises search and rescue missions, says the most recent hoax call they got was pretty obvious.
"The one case where we had a child over the radio I could hear the adult in the background telling them what to say, but we could not locate that person," Dutcher said.
And in New Jersey, they are still looking for the person who pulled off the latest hoax.
If they do find him, Coast Guard authorities say he could spend many years on land...facing up to six years in prison.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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