Probable hoax call ties up Coast Guard rescuers, equipment

BOSTON – The Coast Guard responded to a 911 distress call in which the caller claimed to be on a sinking pleasure craft one mile south of Boston Light around 8 p.m., Friday, in what rescuers believe is likely a hoax.

Coast Guard Sector Boston received a 911 relay call from state police reporting a 27-foot Cabo Express was taking on water with four people on board wearing life jackets.

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

Coast Guard Station Point Allerton launched a 41-foot boat, which arrived on scene around 8:15 p.m., and Air Station Cape Cod launched a Jayhawk rescue helicopter, which arrived on scene about 8:50 p.m.

The helicopter crew searched the area around Boston Light, as well as two other lighthouses in the area, but found no trace of a vessel in distress.

The Station Point Allerton crew fired an illuminating parachute flare to aid in the search. The boat crew also searched near Winthrop Marina, the vessel’s declared homeport, but found no signs of the vessel.

The helicopter crew dedicated almost five hours to the search, and the boat crew searched for nearly four hours, each covering an area of about 30 square miles.

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.

The case is under investigation by Coast Guard Investigative Service, with assistance from the Massachusetts State Police, as a probable hoax.

“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.”

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