The search for missing boaters off the California coast has been called off by the Coast Guard under suspicions that the event never occurred.
The initial call came in around 4:20 pm local time on Monday. A man placed the distress call, saying that his 29-foot sailboat was taking on water having problems with its electrical system.
The man also said that his wife, four-year-old son, and a young cousin were on the boat, reports NBC News. Another call came in an hour later saying that the family of four was abandoning ship.
Since then, the Coast Guard has searched a 20,000-mile area of the Pacific Ocean near Monterey, but have not found any sign of debris or indication that the incident happened.
The Coast Guard called the search off on Tuesday, though they did release audio of the distress calls, hoping a member of the public could identify the man’s voice.
While the audio is difficult to understand, the sailboat is believed to be named the Charmblow. There is no registered owner to a boat by that name, making it difficult to identify the vessel involved. The family has not been identified yet either.
ABC News notes that the Coast Guard is cautious in announcing the missing boaters call may be a hoax. Coast Guard Petty Officer Mike Lutz stated:
“There’s always that chance, but as far as we’re concerned, anytime we get a call for distress, we treat it as peoples’ lives are in danger and we’ll treat it like that until we have reason to believe otherwise.”
Rescuers initially searched an area 65 miles from Pillar Point, which is south of San Francisco. After they reviewed audio tapes, however, they shifted the search effort to 65 miles off the coast of Monterey Bay.
The US Coast Guard is already investigating two hoax distress calls that triggered massive searches last year. One happened in June off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The second involved a Houston-based boat and happened in May. Those two calls have been linked, as they came from a land-based radio.
[Image by U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA2 Nathan Henise [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]