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Distress call a hoax

NOV. 30 — Coast Guard officials Monday called off a nine-hour search for six people in the Gulf of Mexico, off Boca Grande, Fla., after a distress call they received was determined to be a hoax.

A teenage boy, whose name was not being released Tuesday, admitted to using a cell phone to call Sea Tow at 9:30 a.m., claiming his boat was taking on water and that the engine had died, the Coast Guard says. The teen reported his approximate position and gave a description of the boat — a 24-foot Action Craft, a coastal and inshore fishing skiff — before the call was dropped.

In response, a helicopter from Air Station Clearwater, Fla., and two rescue boats from Station Fort Myers Beach, Fla., were launched, according to the Coast Guard. Using cell phone records, Coast Guard officials were later able to trace the call to the teenager.

Although charges have not yet been filed, the teen faces felony charges and could be ordered to pay fines for, and in excess of, the cost of the search, the Coast Guard says. This incident is being investigated.

— Jason Fell