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Search for Missing Sailboat Suspended, Hoax Possible

ABC News(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The U.S. Coast Guard suspended a search for a sailboat off the California coast Tuesday and conceded there is a chance the distress call that triggered a massive hunt was a hoax.

The Coast Guard received a distress signal about 5:30 p.m. Sunday reporting a sailboat was sinking and a family of four was abandoning ship.

An intense search by air and sea, deploying resources from the Coast Guard and the California National Guard, was called off Tuesday.

"We've saturated the area with multiple assets over a roughly 42 hours period, searched approximately 20,000 square miles and we have come up with no signs of distress, no debris in the water and that has led us to suspend this case,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz told ABC News.

"There's always that chance [it's a hoax], but as far as we're concerned, anytime we get a call for distress, we treat it as peoples' lives are in danger and we'll treat it like that until we have reason to believe otherwise," Lutz said.

Nobody has been reported missing and no boats are missing from marinas, he said.

The names of those reportedly on board and their destination were unknown, however the missing were said to include a man and a woman, their 4-year-old son, and his cousin, Coast Guard Lt. Heather Lampert said.

Officials were told the boat's electronics system was failing as it took on water, making it impossible for rescuers to determine the precise location where it went down.

Rescuers initially believed the boat was sinking 65 miles from Pillar Point, just south of San Francisco, Lampert said. After reviewing radio tapes and making new calculations, Lampert said the search effort was shifted slightly south to 65 miles off the coast of Monterey Bay.  

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