Sunday, May 12, 2013

Coast Guard seeks public's help to end hoax distress calls


  The Coast Guard is asking for the public's help in finding the person responsible for making four fake distress calls. The most recent call came in on Friday, and resulted in a five-and-a-half hour search involving multiple air and boat crews from three states.

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The Coast Guard is asking for the public’s help in finding the person who made four fake distress calls. 

 The latest one resulted in a five-and-a-half hour search on Friday, May 10.

Chief Petty Officer Brenda Doris said when a call comes into the Coast Guard the agency always responds.

"Generally we have our surface asset and our air asset for support," Doris said.

That's what happened around 9 a.m. Friday when a call came in on Channel 16.

"Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. My boat is on fire. Two people in the water, and I'm about to jump," the caller said.

Doris said multiple air and boat crews from three states were sent to an area south of Horn Island.

Searchers found no evidence of the boat, people, or even fuel in the water.

New technology tells the Coast Guard where the call is coming from.

"But, we also take into account where they said they were, so obviously you have two vastly different corresponding locations to the case, so you search both areas," Doris explained. "When it's a fake call, obviously we waste a lot of taxpayer money so it's very concerning."

The Coast Guard believes it's not the first time the same person has called in a hoax.

One was recorded on May 2, 2013.

"We're on the east end of Horn Island. I got five people on board. We're taking on a lot of water," the caller said.

The fake calls are not only a problem for the Coast Guard, but they could affect others.

"We are continually wasting resources when they could be utilized somewhere else, and possibly delay response to someone else who is in distress, which is a pretty important point to make. Also it is a felony," Doris said.

Anyone with information on the phony distress calls is asked to call the Coast Guard at (251) 441-6213.

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