(SANDY HOOK, N.J.) — The Coast Guard responded to a reported yacht explosion in the Atlantic Ocean about 17.5 miles east of Sandy Hook, N.J. where at least nine passengers were reportedly injured Monday, but officials are considering the possibility that the call was a hoax.
More than three hours after a distress call saying 21 people had safely abandoned ship but nine had serious burns, neither a flotilla of rescue boats nor a flight of helicopters could find any evidence of the vessel Blind Date or any wreckage from an explosion, according to the Coast Guard. No victims had been found, either.
After receiving the call, the Coast Guard declared a mass casualty incident and requested multiple helicopters to assist with rescue.
Nine people were reported to have second and third degree burns, and 21 people were said to be on board, Coast Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson said.
“The explosion was reported to us by one of the people on board the vessel after it happened from a solar powered radio, because their electronics on board were destroyed during the explosion,” Swanson said.
Officials with several agencies involved in the search said told ABC News it is “highly unusual” to be unable to locate any debris or find any survivors when they receive such a clear position and respond as quickly as they did in this case.
ABC News reached the owners of the yachts Blind Date and Blind Date II, and both said their boats were not lost at sea. The owner of the Blind Date II, however, said there is another yacht called Blind Date that is moored in the Netherlands.
The Coast Guard was notified at 4:20 p.m. of an explosion on board a yacht called the Blind Date, according to WABC. Passengers reported that they had suffered “some kind of explosion on the boat,” according to the Coast Guard. Authorities did not know the cause or scale of the explosion.
All of the boat’s passengers were forced to abandon ship and were in life rafts, and all of the passengers were accounted for, the person who called it in told the Coast Guard.
A private boat, the Erica, was nearby and was on-scene helping the victims while they wait for the Coast Guard to arrive, the caller said.
Two New York Police Department helicopters responded to the scene. Two medevac landing zones were set up on Sandy Hook and nearby Atlantic Highlands for ambulances to meet.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jennifer Lira, KRIS TV
Ahiza Garcia, CNN