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Originally published November 1, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 1, 2006 at 5:01 PM

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Claim that message in bottle from Oregon found in Hawaii is hoax

An answer to a message in a plastic bottle that a teenage girl hoped would make it across the Pacific Ocean has turned out to be a hoax, according to a Hawaiian TV station.

CARLTON, Ore. – An answer to a message in a plastic bottle that a teenage girl hoped would make it across the Pacific Ocean has turned out to be a hoax, according to a Hawaiian TV station.

"I feel just really silly right now," a man identified only as "Tom M." told Linda Coble, a reporter with Honolulu's KHON-TV.

The man told KHON that he recently found the bottle while clearing brush along Panther Creek near the Oregon town of Carlton before his wedding to a Carlton woman.

The bottle had been sealed with duct tape and dropped into Panther Creek in February 2003 by Emily Streight, then 12, who noted that, "In six months I'll be 13."

She also added: "If this is a guy who finds this, send a picture."

Streight, now 16 and a junior at Yamhill-Carlton High School, received a letter about a week ago from someone identifying himself only as "Keoni."

The writer claimed to be a 16-year-old Honolulu boy who had found her bottle on the beach while picking up trash following a luau. As proof, he returned Streight's original note.

He went on to tell her his ancestry was a mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese, that he liked to surf, kayak and skateboard, and that he played wide receiver on the football team. He wrapped up, "I hope you're happy to get your letter back. It seems like it has been traveling for a long time. Aloha, Keoni."

But KHON learned that "Tom," a 34-year-old man, concocted the story after he took the bottle and the note back home to Hawaii from Oregon.

Tom told KHON, "If I would have said I'm a married, 34-year-old, chubby white guy, it would have sounded creepy. I know people from the mainland, and what they think of Hawaii is a lot of Polynesian people running around on the beach, so I tried to make it sound like that."

Tom and his wife, a nurse, live in a high-rise apartment building. He put his correct return address on the envelope, and that set off a search by Honolulu media outlets.

Eventually, he came forward to tell his story.

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"I was laughing, but I was crying because I was really embarrassed," he told KHON. "Like, I couldn't believe this is something that got on the news.

Streight said Coble, the KHON reporter, called her and told her the whole story.

"When she told me what really happened, it kind of made more sense," Streight said.

"I didn't know any different at the time, but the whole thing seemed a little far-fetched," the teenager said. "It almost seemed impossible. A plastic bottle, traveling for almost four years, across the Pacific Ocean."

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