HOAX CALL TAB: $330,000 AND COUNTING

An ambulance arriving at Fort Hancock Monday evening, above, joining a growing number at two staging areas. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Calm and collected, the anonymous caller said he was standing in three-and-a-half feet of water on the bridge of an explosion-damaged yacht 17 miles offshore.

In a recording of the mayday call released by the U.S. Coast Guard Tuesday, the male voice goes on to claim “three deceased on board” and 20 “souls” in the water.

The call triggered a massive response that included an intensive air and sea search and an all-hands readiness turnout of emergency first aiders, firefighters and others, most of whom raced to Sandy Hook to help.

But the call, the Coast Guard says, was in all likelihood a hoax. And unless the caller is found and forced to cough up, it will cost taxpayers at least $300,000.

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BOAT EXPLOSION HOAX TRIGGERS PROBE

A State Police helicopter, above, and ambulances, below, arriving at Fort Hancock, ready to transport ‘victims’ of Monday’s purported boat explosion.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Ambulances, including a “mass-casualty” vehicle capable of handling more than a dozen injured at a time, manned by dozens of volunteers from across Monmouth County. Fire trucks. A handful of helicopters standing by, and four others aloft, scanning hundreds of square miles of ocean in a desperate race to effort to help.

All mustered, apparently, on a hoax.

Roughly five hours and an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses after it began, a search for the 21 “victims” of a yacht explosion at sea that purportedly left up to nine people badly burned was suspended by the U.S. Coast Guard Monday night.

Now, the incident is a matter of investigating who set it all  in motion, the Coast Guard says.

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