A hoax call about a yacht explosion earlier this week risked the lives of rescuers, diverted resources, and cost taxpayers at least $330,000, Coast Guard officials revealed. "We have 21 souls on board, 20 in the water right now. I have three deceased on board, nine injured because of the explosion," the hoaxster said in a call that investigators now believe came from land in southern New York or northern New Jersey, the Wall Street Journal reports. The caller was more convincing than ordinary pranksters, according to officials.
The Coast Guard and at least five other agencies took part in an extensive search for victims, and a burn unit at a New Jersey hospital called in 50 staffers. Audio of the call has been released, and a $3,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the caller, who could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of making a false distress call, which is a federal felony. Investigators say the caller's voice is similar to that of a person who falsely reported a sinking fishing vessel at this time last year.