Coast Guard suspends search for a woman in distress

SAN FRANCISCO – The Coast Guard suspended its search for a woman in distress in the San Francisco Bay, today.

Around 8 p.m. last night, Coast Guard Sector San Francisco received a mayday call over Channel 16, the international hailing and distress channel, from a woman who said, “Listen to me. Listen to me. Hello, 10-4. I have a mayday.” The Coast Guard watch stander who heard the call attempted to make contact; however, was unable to reach her.

Sector San Francisco’s command center watchstanders were able to identify her location as being near Tiburon in the San Francisco Bay using the Rescue 21 system. The Coast Guard then contacted the commercial vessels in the area, and issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast urging mariners to keep a sharp look out for any signs of distress.

The Coast Guard Cutter Tern, an 87-foot patrol boat homeported on Yerba Buena Island, and a 25-foot response boat from Coast Guard Station San Francisco responded to the scene and conducted a search from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. At approximately 10:30 p.m last night after finding no signs of distress, the Coast Guard halted the search with plans to resume the next morning.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter conducted a first light search at 6:45 a.m., this morning. After saturating the area and finding no signs of distress, the search was suspended at approximately 7:57 a.m.

Boaters should know that calling mayday over Channel 16 is similar to calling 911 and saying you have an emergency. The Coast Guard responds to every mayday call as an actual emergency. It is important for people give as much information as possible during a mayday, including location and type of distress. False distress calls are illegal and punishable by up to six years in prison and $250,000 fine. The Coast Guard’s concern is that someone could die during a real emergency, because the rescue crews were searching a false distress.

The Rescue 21 system uses direction finding equipment to determine the location of a radio broadcast. Sector San Francisco began using the system in March 2010. Rescue 21 allows the Coast Guard to locate vessels in distress when a position is not given on the mayday call.

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