Coast Guard suspends search for 6 missing people off Port St. Lucie, Fla.

MIAMI – Coast Guard Sector Miami suspended its search efforts for six missing people off Port St. Lucie Inlet in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Wednesday at noon.

Crews aboard 33-foot Special Purpose-Law Enforcement Crafts from Station Fort Pierce, Fla. and Lake Worth Inlet, Fla., a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat from Coast Station Fort Pierce and a HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Miami searched for 11 hours and covered more than 292 square miles since receiving the distress call. Also assisting with the search were SeaTow, and Martin County Sheriff’s Office crews assisted with a helicopter search and shoreside patrols.

Although this case has not been officially ruled a hoax, it is important for people to know the risks and cost involved when the Coast Guard and other emergency services respond to false reports. Every moment spent responding to false reports takes time that could be vital in the case of a real emergency. Every time a Coast Guard or other emergency service crew responds to a false distress call they are putting themselves in danger and the resources including fuel, manpower and other equipment costs also end up costing taxpayers.

It is a federal felony for anyone to knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or cause the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed. Penalties include up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $5,000 civil penalty, and possible reimbursement to the Coast Guard for costs of the search.

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