Search for nine boaters called off

A Coast Guard officer suspects the disturbing phone call was a hoax.

Published June 14, 2006

BOYNTON BEACH - The Coast Guard has halted a search for nine people described in a distress call as being adrift at sea in life jackets after their boat sank.

The search, suspended late Monday, will resume only if it gets new leads about a missing boat, the Coast Guard said.

A Coast Guard officer had voiced suspicions Monday that the radio distress call received late Sunday night was a hoax.

"There are some elements that just don't add up," Lt. Cmdr. Chris O'Neil said. The caller didn't sound stressed, the name he gave for the supposed 33-foot powerboat, Blue Sheep, does not appear in records in Florida or elsewhere, and the caller identified himself and his wife as John and Carol Tobin, names that didn't check out. Also, no calls have been received from relatives about missing boaters.

Two pieces of a boat were found Monday on a beach several miles from where the vessel reportedly sank, but officials said Tuesday the debris did not come from a boat like that described in the distress call.

The Coast Guard and local agencies sent three helicopters, an airplane and several boats on the search along a 50-mile stretch from St. Lucie County to Boynton Beach.