Blast Rocks Luxury Yacht Off New Jersey Coast… Or Does It? [UPDATE]

The 49 meter “Blind Date”. Photo: BoatInternational.com

UPDATE (13:00 pst, Tues): Listen to the unbelievable audio recording of the “Blind Date” hoax call.

UPDATE (07:15 pst, Tues) The Coast Guard is now investigating this as a hoax and is offering a $3,000 reward for information about the fake call.

“More than 200 first responders assembled mass casualty receptions areas in Newark, and Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, N.J., preparing to receive the reported injured passengers,” said Cmdr. Kenneth Pierro, of Coast Guard Sector New York.

The Coast Guard says that in 2011 USCG crews and other state and local agencies responded to more than 60 suspected hoax calls in the northern New Jersey, New York City and Hudson River region in 2011.

Making a false distress call is a federal crime and is punishable by jail time and a heavy fine.

UPDATE (16:15 pst): In a bizarre turn of events, according to this report from ABC news, no wreckage of the Blind Date has been found by the flotilla of vessels assisting in the search and rescue operations, nor have any victims of the incident come forward.  The USCG reports from earlier were apparently only citing the caller who originally reported the incident and supposedly calling from a nearby vessel that was offering assistance to survivors.

What we do know that an extensive SAR operation was launched and included USCG air and sea assets, NYPD assets, good samaritan vessels and awaiting ground personnel to help the injured.

Making a false distress call in the United States is considered a felony and carries a sentence of up to six years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine, as well as getting the bill for all SAR operations.

Calls to the USCG have not been returned.  AIS information about the vessels location has not been updated on the site, Marinetraffic.com, since 83 days ago.  Meanwhile, a commentor on gCaptain’s facebook page says he saw the “Blind Date” in Port Everglades, Florida on Saturday, June 9th.

The USCG has not yet released an official statement.

Here is a picture of the “Blind Date” taken in Port Everglades on Saturday, June 9.

UPDATE (15:45 pst): Unconfirmed reports indicate that the “Blind Date” is a 49.07-meter yacht designed by Trinity Yachts that made her debut at the 2009 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.   The yacht was recently put up for sale on boatinternational.com by Merle Wood & Associates for an asking price of $23,900,000.  gCaptain is still awaiting confirmation that this is the same yacht that was involved in this incident.

Original: A yacht reportedly exploded off the coast of New Jersey on Monday forcing all 21 people on board to abandon ship, a USCG official has told several media agencies.

The blast occurred approximately 17 miles off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey aboard the motor yacht “Blind Date” and was called in at about 4:20 pm.  Initial reports are indicating that a total of seven people have been injured however official confirmation is still being awaited.  The yacht reportedly sank after the explosion but all 21 have been said to have made it on to life rafts.

Several Coast Guard assets have been dispatched to the scene along with a number of good samaritan vessels.