(CNN) -- An intensive search for injured and adrift passengers from a yacht purportedly hit by an explosion at sea turned up no evidence of people, debris, or even a boat, the U.S. Coast Guard said Monday evening.
Nearly five hours after the search was launched, it was suspended, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Jetta Disco.
Earlier, as the search was underway, Coast Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson conceded, "At this time, we are considering the possibility that this is a hoax."
"But we are going to continue the search," he said. "Whenever we receive a report like this we have to treat it as if it's an actual emergency."
Earlier Monday, Swanson told CNN that a search-and-rescue effort had been launched after the Coast Guard received a call that seven people had been injured in an explosion aboard a yacht off the coast of New Jersey.
A total of 21 people were on board the "Blind Date" and all were reported to be in life rafts, Swanson said.
The incident was reported at 4:20 p.m. and was called in by solar radio because the boat's electronics were not working after the explosion, he said.
But a nearly four-hour search involving Coast Guard helicopters and other vessels found nothing in the targeted area 17 miles off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.
Swanson said it would be unusual to search that long with that many assets and not find something if indeed the reported incident had occurred.
CNN's Eden Pontz and Rob Frehse contributed to this report.