Published: Aug 10, 2010 4:57 PM EDT
Updated: Aug 10, 2010 1:57 PM EDT

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A woman called a hospital Tuesday and told a drug counselor she had thrown her newborn and two young children off a bridge because she could not feed them, setting off a search of the Delaware River by officials who didn't know if she was telling the truth.

Authorities were trying to locate the woman, Michelle Perez, of Camden, N.J., and the Coast Guard said it was taking her report seriously but had no way of knowing if it was legitimate.

The helicopter and boat search began shortly after authorities got a call around 4 a.m. from a nurse at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia.

A woman had called the hospital and said she was in Camden, N.J., had just given birth and had thrown her newborn baby into the river from the Ben Franklin Bridge, the Coast Guard said. The woman called back a second time and told another nurse she had also thrown her 4-year-old and 2-year-old children off the bridge because she couldn't feed them, Coast Guard Petty Officer Michael Blake said.

Police in Camden were unable to find Perez, Blake said.

The Delaware River Port Authority, which owns and operates the suspension bridge, said its security cameras didn't capture any images of a woman throwing anything off the span. It also noted that the bridge's pedestrian walkways are locked at night.

Peggy Boemmel, chief financial officer at St. Joseph's Hospital in North Philadelphia, said an alcohol and drug counselor received the call around 4 a.m. and kept her on the phone for a couple of hours while alerting another employee to call 911.

Boemmel was trying to determine if the woman had ever been a patient there.

The Associated Press was not immediately able to locate a Michelle Perez in Camden.