NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Coast Guard abandoned its search for a yacht reported exploded off the coast of New Jersey and is investigating the incident as a hoax, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
A distress call came in Monday afternoon, reporting 21 people had abandoned ship into life rafts after the yacht exploded 17 miles east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, the Coast Guard said.
A massive search was launched, but no signs of debris, life rafts or people were found and the search was suspended on Monday night, the Coast Guard said.
"We're actually investigating it as a hoax," Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Brewer said on Tuesday.
The distress call said seven of the people on board the yacht - identified by the caller as the Blind Date - were injured, the Coast Guard said.
Making a false distress call is a federal felony that carries a prison sentence of five to 10 years in prison, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard said it planned to release more information into its investigation at a news conference later on Tuesday.
It said the distress caller claimed to be transmitting from a solar-powered radio because the boat's radio had been destroyed, meaning the caller's location could not be pinpointed using global positioning system tracking technology.
The Coast Guard received just the one transmission, it said.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Eric Beech)