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Coast Guard suspicious of similarities between hoax distress calls in NJ and Texas

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Coast Guard officials are investigating a possible link between last week's false distress call reporting a yacht explosion in Sandy Hook, N.J., and another recent distress call off the waters of Galveston, Texas, NBCNewYork.com reported Tuesday.

Coast Guard officials said at a news conference Wednesday they are investigating suspicious similarities between the two calls and trying to see if they are connected, including whether the same male caller made them.

In last Monday's false distress call, a man contacted the Coast Guard on a radio line, reporting an explosion on a boat called the Blind Date about 17 nautical miles east of Sandy Hook.

The Coast Guard is investigating similarities between two false emergency calls in different states.

The caller described himself as the captain in the 20-second call.

"We have three deceased, nine injured. We've had an explosion on board, that's why we're taking on water ... I'm going to stay by the radio as long as I can before I have to go overboard," the caller says in the audio clip released by the Coast Guard. 

Listen to the audio on NBCNewYork.com

Read more, see video related to hoax calls on NBCNewYork.com

In a similar distress call in Galveston, Texas in May, a man told the Coast Guard, "This is fishing vessel Scallywag. We're about two miles from the channel... We have an on-board emergency. We are taking on water, sir."

Authorities point out the same terminology was used by both callers and included nonstandard nautical phrases like "taking on water" instead of "sinking." The callers also used terms such as "souls on board" elsewhere in the calls to describe the number of people aboard and "beacon" to described a supposed automatic signaling device on life rafts.

In both cases, the callers specifically contacted a Coast Guard Vessel Traffic Service and said their GPS systems weren't working. The two hoax calls each sparked massive search and rescue efforts. 

Coast Guard Capt. Gregory Hitchen said Wednesday that a reporter from the Houston area called its investigative unit after learning of the hoax call in New Jersey.

Earlier report: Coast Guard believes NJ yacht explosion was 'hoax'

NJ hoax distress call came from on land, Coast Guard says

Coast Guard searched area the size of Delaware in Texas distress call

The Texas case had not been declared a hoax when it was made in April, but was classified as an unresolved distress call, Hitchen said. Investigators listened to the audio and "put together enough similarities," he added.

Dennis Walsh, a retired NYPD detective and a forensic audio expert, said while the voice print won’t necessarily identify the caller, it can help with the investigation.

“It makes the interview evidence process easier because it’s really cogent evidence to lay a voice print in front of a suspect,” said Walsh.

Hitchen urged anyone with information about either call to contact investigators.

"These cases are very difficult to solve without help from the public," he said.

There is currently a $3,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and prosecution of someone involved in the New Jersey call.

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