The Coast Guard reports it is looking for a hoax caller that made a false distress call earlier this month in the Gloucester, Mass., area.
On July 7, Coast Guard Sector Boston received the Mayday call via VHF channel 16 around 10 p.m., stating a 24-foot pleasure craft was taking on water with two people aboard roughly 20 to 40 minutes outside Gloucester Harbor. Before losing communication with the Coast Guard, the caller stated both boaters were going to put on their life jackets. No other communications were received.
The Coast Guard launched boats and aircraft in response to the call and searched the waters of Gloucester throughout the night. The cost of the search totaled approximately $132,000.
The search was suspended the following day after no additional information was found and no missing persons were reported to the Coast Guard and local authorities.
Authorities are now utilizing advanced technologies in search and rescue missions. Rescue 21 is a system the Coast Guard utilizes to locate positions when a distress call is received. This technology helps the Coast Guard locate distressed boaters and has helped locate hoax callers.
When the Coast Guard dispatches its vessels and aircraft in cases of false distress, it not only drains limited resources, but needlessly puts our personnel at risk. Making a false distress call is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of five to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, $8,000 civil penalty and the possible reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of performing the search.
In response to the high number of calls, the Coast Guard offers a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of anyone responsible for making a false distress or hoax call to the U.S. Coast Guard. Anyone with information regarding false distress calls is encouraged to contact the U.S. Coast Guard at (617) 557-9091.