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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Update: SOS Distress Call May Have Been Hoax

The Coast Guard estimates that the radio signal from the sinking boat came from about 60 miles west of Monterey. (Screenshot from ABC-affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco)

The Coast Guard estimates that the radio signal from the sinking boat came from about 60 miles west of Monterey. (Screenshot from ABC-affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco)

Update (2:10 p.m.): The Coast Guard has called off the search for a boat that reportedly sank far off the Central California coast with two adults and two children on board, saying it could be a hoax.

Authorities have turned to the public in hopes of identifying a family that sent a series of distress calls saying their boat was sinking far off the Central California coast.

“There is still no information on where the boat was coming from, where it was going or who the people on board are,” said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz.

The unidentified family of four – including two children under 8 – had been sailing a small vessel Sunday west of Monterey Bay. Forecasters had issued a weekend advisory warning boaters of rough seas in the area, and water temperatures typically are in the 40s and 50s, making long-term survival difficult.

The group made its first distress call late Sunday afternoon, said Coast Guard Lt. Heather Lampert. Investigators used the boat’s radio signal and radar to determine the call came from an area about 60 miles west of Monterey.

The boaters reported that their 29-foot sailboat was taking on water and the electronics were failing.

Crews planned to search by sea and air through the night Monday to find the family, who said in the calls that they were fashioning a raft from a cooler and a life-preserver ring before they lost contact with the Coast Guard.

  • Please contact Coast Guard Sector San Francisco at 415-399-3547 if you have any information.

“We will just saturate the search area with as many assets as we can, so we can hopefully rescue them,” Lutz said.

The Coast Guard released one of the family’s recorded distress calls, in hopes that it would lead to new information from the public that could help in the search. So far the agency has received no reports of missing persons in the case.

The agency believes the boat’s name was Charmblow. In the crackling recording, a man’s voice is heard saying, “Coast Guard, Coast Guard, we are abandoning ship. This is the (Charmblow), we are abandoning ship.”

Investigators determined from the broken distress calls that the family included a husband and wife, their 4-year-old son and his cousin, Lampert said.

The boat’s location initially was reported farther north, but Lampert said investigators now believe the call came from west of Monterey Bay, about 100 miles south of San Francisco. The boat did not have a working GPS system.

Calls to harbors in California have failed to locate the boat, and database searches have come up empty, Lampert said. The Coast Guard was expanding its search to Hawaii, the Seattle area and north into Canada.

Guest:

  • Lt. Heather Lampert, Coast Guard spokeswoman.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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