Coast Guard launches multiple crews in search for distress beacon; Unregistered beacon found in Cape May marina

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Coast Guard rescue helicopter, airplane and smallboat crews searched off the coast of Virginia Saturday night and Sunday for a possible vessel in distress.

After several hours of searching, the vessel was located Sunday afternoon docked in Cape May, with no one in distress. The case was closed as a false distress.

The Coast Guard urges mariners to register their electronic position-indicating radio beacons. This simple act, which involves entering contact information such as telephone numbers and address into the satellite system that tracks EPIRB signals, aids search coordinators in their investigation of the signals.

“The Coast Guard must treat every distress signal or mayday as if it was the real thing,” said Petty Officer 1st Class John Manzi, search and rescue coordinator at the Coast Guard Sector Field Office Atlantic City operations center. “When mariners properly register their EPIRBs, we can more effectively determine which cases involve actual distress and which cases may involve accidental activation of the distress beacon.”

The Coast Guard was initially alerted to the activation of a 406 MHz EPIRB 10:55 p.m. Saturday. The Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking system provided a location of about 60 nautical miles east of Chincoteague, Va. The Coast Guard immediately directed the launch of an HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., and diverted an HC-130 Hercules long-range surveillance aircraft crew from another case to search.

Search and rescue coordinators from Coast Guard Sector Field Office Eastern Shore, in Chincoteague, began issuing an urgent marine information broadcast, alerting mariners of the search. The crew of the motor vessel Ambassador, alerted about the search through the Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue program, diverted from their voyage to assist in the search.

The crews searched until about 2 a.m. Sunday, when the case was suspended as a possible false distress.

A rescue helicopter crew launched from Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City at 11:41 a.m. to attempt to determine the source of additional distress signals, one about 60 nautical miles east of Cape May, N.J., and one in Cape May. A rescue boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Cape May was launched at about 2:30 p.m. after the signal was traced to Cape May.

The boatcrew located a vessel docked in Cape May and directed someone aboard to deactivate the EPIRB at 4:15 p.m. No additional distress signals were detected.

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