Coast Guard traces source of hoax distress call

Coast Guard Investigative Services and Massachusetts State Police have pin pointed the source of a fake distress call made to the Coast Guard here Friday night. The Coast Guard responded at 8 p.m., to a 911 distress call in which the caller claimed to be on a sinking pleasure craft one mile south of Boston Light.

The caller stated he had flares, but they were water logged, and the vessel had two feet of water on deck.

The Coast Guard launched a 41-foot rescue boat crew from Station Point Allerton and a Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Cape Cod. With no other signs of a distressed mariner, and after nearly five hours of searching an area about 30 square miles wide, the search was called off.

The Massachusetts State Police traced the call to a cell phone and was able to locate the owner, confirming there was no distress.

The cost of the search, taking into account man hours, equipment use and fuel consumption, is estimated at nearly $30,000.

“Our number one priority in search and rescue cases is getting our emergency units to the scene as quickly as possible, operating under the assumption that the distress is genuine,” said Lt. Aurora Fleming, First Coast Guard District Command Center duty officer. “Hoax distress calls generate pointless searches that reduce the Coast Guard’s ability to rescue mariners in true distress, senselessly putting lives at risk.”

The case and identity of the actual caller is being investigated by the Coast Guard. Hoax calls placed to the Coast Guard are classified as a felony and are punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Reimbursement of the cost of the search is also possible.

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