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Coast Guard suspends search for missing sailboat, possible hoax

Coast Guard officials said they have been unable to pinpoint the location where a distress call originated reporting what was said to be a sinking sailboat in the ocean south of San Francisco.

On Tuesday, the Coast Guard suspended its search for four people, including two young children, and began investigating the possibility that the call may have been 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.

“We are looking for additional information. We handle every situation like it’s a life threatening situation unless we are 100% sure it’s a hoax.”

The alleged 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, and would attempt to fashion a life raft out of a cooler and safety ring.

The Coast Guard then lost radio communications with the caller.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Barry Bena told the San Francisco Chronicle that searchers were frustrated by the lack of information.

"When you don't have anything to go by, it makes it frustrating," Bena told the newspaper. "There's no name, there's no confirmed name of the vessel, no one has come forward to say, 'Hey, my family's missing' or anything."

The Coast Guard launched multiple rescue efforts -- using both watercraft and aircraft -- but there had been no reported sighting as of Tuesday morning and authorities said they had no information about the identities of anyone on board.

Lutz said a cost estimate for the search won’t be completed for days.

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

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-- Garrett Therolf

 
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