FT. MYERS, Fla. - The Coast Guard says a reported explosion on a motor yacht off central New Jersey was a hoax and that an extensive search and rescue operation cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Todd Walter with the US Coast Guard says here in Southwest Florida, they treat every call as if it's a matter of life and death.
"The Coast Guard always wants to make sure that we exhaust our efforts to search for something before we call it quits. we don't ever want to stop searching something or somebody that's out there," he said.
Walter says most of the calls they receive are real, but the false calls are "sometimes intentional, or they're just bored."
The New Jersey caller falsely reported the boat had 21 people aboard. Walter says they often get calls on flare sightings.
"The Coast Guard's position on that is, we always respond to flare sightings. How many of those that turn out to be hoaxes is unknown."
The caller in New Jersey also claimed the vessel sank, but everyone aboard had made it to life rafts.
More than 200 first responders were prepared to receive injured passengers that never arrived.
"You can get 5 to 10 years of jail time and $250,000 fine," Walter warned.
He also said the amount of time they spend looking depends on several factors.
"The weather, if it's rough out, we'll be out longer searching. If it's calm out and they think we've done a sufficient job of searching the area, they may call it a little bit sooner."