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False report of teen swept into Santa Ana River prompted massive rescue effort

January 22, 2010 | 10:52 am

The story of a young teen being swept into the rain-swollen Santa Ana River appears to be a sham, wasting hours of rescue workers' time, according to the Orange Fire Department.

“I don’t think it was a planned hoax, but I’m not sure what to call it,” said Capt. Edward Engler, a spokesman for the department.

Rescue workers reported pulling a boy out of the river near Glassell Street in north Orange on Thursday afternoon during heavy rain, and the boy told them that a friend was still in the river. The statement launched a massive search from Orange to the Pacific Ocean, with rescue crews from six fire departments scouring the river by land and air for more than two hours.

But this morning, Engler reported that several new facts have come to light since the search. The person pulled from the river turned out to be a homeless man, and his statements have been found to be inconsistent and inaccurate. Engler said he did not know the man’s motivation for making up the story.

Officials do not yet know how much the rescue effort cost nor whether the department would seek criminal charges against the man, Engler said.

-- Seema Mehta

Photo: Orange firefighters search for a teen who reportedly fell into the Santa Ana River from a bridge in Anaheim. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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