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Report of Sinking Soviet Sub Called Hoax

May 03, 1987|H.G. REZA | Times Staff Writer

The Navy and Coast Guard searched ocean waters off Baja California on Saturday after receiving an early-morning distress call from a man claiming to be a crewman aboard a sinking Soviet submarine. The Navy later dismissed the call as a hoax.

Coast Guard Lt. John Sullivan in San Diego said the Coast Guard received the radio message at 7:54 a.m. from a man with a heavy accent who said the submarine had suffered a loss of propulsion and was taking on water. The caller identified the submarine as the Dresnavia, and said it was foundering 70 miles southwest of San Diego.

The Coast Guard dispatched a Falcon jet, helicopter and cutter to search the area but found no trace of the sub. The Navy later assumed command of the search, using planes and helicopters from the carrier Enterprise, which was operating off Southern California.

A spokesman for the Third Fleet headquarters at Pearl Harbor said the search turned up neither a Soviet sub nor any other vessel in distress. The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, said a Soviet intelligence trawler operating in the search area told the Navy that it knew of no Soviet submarine in trouble.

The Navy said it is unlikely that the submarine could have sunk, because the Navy closely monitors the movements of all Soviet vessels in the Pacific. In addition, the Navy spokesman at Pearl Harbor said that the Navy knows of no Soviet ship named Dresnavia.

The search was called off about noon, but though the Navy was labeling the distress call a hoax, the Coast Guard said it was listing it as an "unconfirmed report." Coast Guard spokesman Sullivan said that the Coast Guard will investigate the incident to determine whether the call was a hoax.

If it was a hoax and the perpetrators are identified, they will be prosecuted according to federal law, Sullivan said.

In November, Robert McCombs was sentenced to five years in prison by a U.S. District judge in San Diego for broadcasting a fictitious distress call that sent the Coast Guard, San Diego Harbor Patrol and local rescue agencies searching the foggy coast looking for victims of a phony nighttime boat disaster.

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