The US Coast Guard is investigating a possible link between the hoax call regarding an explosion aboard the yacht Blind Date (as reported by SB on 13 June) and a hoax in May in Texas.
Capt. Gregory P Hitchen, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector New York, says a tip helped generate further leads. The tip referred them to an unresolved call about a fishing boat in the Houston area, placed in May.
In that case, no boat was found, nor were any fishermen or boats reported overdue or missing. Hitchen says the similarities were specific terms that someone familiar with Coast Guard operations, not a typical boater, would use.
Hitchen provides several examples. In both cases, the callers stated they were “taking on water,” versus “sinking.” They also mentioned “souls” versus “people,” referring to passengers. Both callers mentioned an “electronic array” or “antenna” was down, and both described positions within one-tenth of a mile.
Furthermore, both referred to “orange liferafts,” not simply “liferafts,” and referenced a “beacon” in describing their handheld radios. Finally, Hitchen says, both male callers had similarly calm, convincing tones.
A $3,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the hoax caller in New York.
Knowingly making a false distress call is a felony in the United States, carrying a maximum penalty of six years in prison, a $250,000 criminal fine, and full reimbursement of the costs incurred in responding to the call.