Coast Guard Needs Public Assistance in Maine Search and Rescue Case

Portland, Maine – The Coast Guard is seeking the public’s assistance with a search and rescue case that occurred in East Penobscot Bay between Vinalhaven, Maine, and Deer Isle, Maine, Sat., March 6, 2010.

The Coast Guard is asking the public for help identifying the fishing vessel Steven Bowden, the vessel’s homeport or its reported owner, Elwood Patton.

Coast Guard Sector Northern New England received a Mayday call from the vessel shortly before noon from an adult male stating his name was Elwood Patton and his vessel was sinking between Vinalhaven and Deer Isle.

The man subsequently reported that his vessel had completely sunk and he was in the water. Although communications were intermittent for more than 50 minutes, sector watchstanders were unable to acquire a vessel description.

The sector dispatched a 25-foot response boat from Coast Guard Station Rockland as well as two HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters and a Falcon jet from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod. A Maine Marine Patrol boat, a Knox County Sheriff’s aircraft and Good Samaritans on two vessels also joined the search.

During the search crews saturated the area but did not see any signs of anyone in the water, a sunken vessel, debris or any oil or fuel sheens indicating the last position of a sunken vessel.

Due to the numerous search assets involved during the six-hour search, the Coast Guard expended more than 120 personnel hours and $176,000 on this mission.

Sector Northern New England command center staff searched all Coast Guard information systems for records pertaining to the subject vessel and its owner, but was unable to find any record relating to either the vessel or its owner. The state and local agencies involved also searched their information systems including the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, but also came up empty-handed.

“We received a Mayday call in which a mariner reported that his boat was sinking and he was in immediate distress,” said Lt. Bryan Hollis, the command duty officer at the sector command center in Portland, Maine. “It is Coast Guard policy to respond immediately to this type of distress call. We ran more than 670 search and rescue cases last year, but this one seems different and has us concerned. We either have a vessel that sank resulting in the loss of its owner, neither of which we are unable to find, or we have a hoax case. Neither of these situations is acceptable to the Coast Guard.”

Hoax distress calls placed to the Coast Guard are classified as a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

“In addition to the prison time and fine, false distress calls made to the Coast Guard needlessly place the lives of our crews and the lives of the boating public in danger and waste hundreds of thousands in tax dollars,” said Capt. James McPherson, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England.

Anyone with information regarding this Search and Rescue case is encouraged to call USCG Sector Northern New England at (207) 741-5465.

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