NEW YORK – The U.S. Coast Guard located a hoax caller who made a false distress call from a vessel in Long Island Sound, N.Y., Wednesday, June 15, 2011.
Both Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound and Sector New York received a distress “mayday” call for help on VHF Channel 16. A boatcrew from Station Eaton’s Neck, N.Y. was diverted to locate the boater after several attempts to contact them were unsuccessful.
By utilizing advanced Rescue 21 direction-finding communication technology, Coast Guard crews located the vessel.
Coast Guard Law Enforcement officers determined the boaters were not in distress but that the call came from a minor aboard the vessel. The boaters were escorted to a pier where they were further questioned by a member of the Coast Guard’s Investigative Service.
Making a false distress call is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of five to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, $8,000 civil penalty and the possible reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search.
The estimated cost for Wednesday’s Coast Guard search assets was nearly $5,500.
Boaters are reminded that they are responsible for the safety and actions of their passengers and are encouraged to educate them about the proper use of emergency equipment including a marine VHF radio. Oftentimes passengers, especially children, may not understand the consequences of playing on the radio and reporting a false distress.
In response to this high number of calls, the Coast Guard offers a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of anyone responsible for making a false distress or hoax call to the U.S. Coast Guard in the area. Anyone with information regarding false distress calls is encouraged to anonymously contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 646-872-5774.