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Coast Guard's investigation of distress call comes up empty

Published June 13, 2006

BOYNTON BEACH - As the search continued Monday for nine people reportedly adrift at sea off Palm Beach County after their boat sank, the Coast Guard was investigating whether the distress call was a hoax.

"There are some elements that just don't add up," Lt. Cmdr. Chris O'Neil said. "If you listen to that tape, the voice of that person doesn't sound like he's particularly stressed."

The Coast Guard has been searching the waters three miles off the Boynton Beach Inlet since receiving the radio distress call late Sunday night from a man who said the 33-foot powerboat Blue Sheep was taking on water and sinking.

"My lights are flickering on my radio. I'm taking on water. What do you want me to do?" the man calmly asked, according to a recording of the call released Monday.

No record of a boat named Blue Sheep was found in Florida or elsewhere, and the names of the man and his wife didn't check out.

The man said he and his wife were John and Carol Tobin, the Coast Guard said.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said a couple by that name once lived in Coral Springs, but have moved to New Jersey where they were found safe on Monday.

O'Neil said the passengers reportedly included four children. He said the man did not have a GPS locator and attempts to triangulate his position using radio signals were unsuccessful.

[Last modified June 13, 2006, 04:49:57]

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