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Distress call from sinking sailboat may be hoax, Coast Guard says

February 26, 2013 | 10:57 am

The Coast Guard on Tuesday suspended its search for four people, including two young children, who were believed to be missing after a distress call from what was said to be a sinking sailboat in the ocean south of San Francisco. Officials are investigating the possibility that the incident was a hoax.

Searchers using aircraft and sea vessels found "no signs of distress, no signs of debris, no reports of missing people," Coast Guard spokesman Mike Lutz said. 

The agency will continue to investigate the case, including whether the initial distress call was a hoax, Lutz said.

"We are looking for additional information," he said. "We handle every situation like it’s a life threatening situation unless we are 100 percent sure it’s a hoax." 

The purported distress call from a 29-foot sailboat, possibly named Charmblow, was made at about 4:20 p.m. Sunday, authorities said. The boat was said to be 65 miles off Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay.

The caller reported that the boat was taking on water and that its electronics were failing. At 5:30 p.m. the vessel operator reported that the occupants were abandoning the boat, possibly for a makeshift life raft. The Coast Guard then lost radio communications with the caller.

Multiple rescue efforts were launched using watercraft and aircraft, but there was no reported sighting as of Tuesday morning and authorities said they had no information about the identities of anyone on board.

The Coast Guard asked anyone with information about the incident to call (415) 399-3547.

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-- Garrett Therolf

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