The Coast Guard is asking for help in identifying a person who has made more than a dozen false mayday calls in the last three years from the same general area of Midcoast Maine.
The hoax calls have tallied more than 50 hours of search time by Coast Guard and local responders at a cost of more than $188,000, according to the Coast Guard.
Click play for audio of the mayday calls.
“The Coast Guard treats every distress call very seriously and takes action to respond to those in need of assistance,” Lt. Nick Barrow, supervisor of the search-and-rescue command center in Portland, Maine, said in a statement. “Recent advances in technology, through the Rescue 21 communications system in particular, have made it easier to pinpoint an area from which a call originates, aid watchstanders in determining if a real emergency exists and investigate or correlate suspected hoax callers.”
Most recently, watchstanders at Sector Northern New England in Portland received multiple maydays April 23 and 25 over VHF channel 16 with no position or nature of distress.
Using the Rescue 21 system, the watchstanders were able to pinpoint the location of the calls to the Lincolnville area. Lincolnville is the mainland terminal site for state ferry service to Islesboro. These calls are believed to be associated with the same male caller who has made at least 12 other hoax calls in the last three years from the same general area.
The Coast Guard is requesting that anyone who has information call (207) 780-3087. A reward of as much as $1,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the hoax caller.
Under federal law, knowingly and willfully transmitting a hoax distress call is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution to the Coast Guard for all costs incurred while responding to the call.
In 2012 the Coast Guard “confirmed” 19 hoax calls nationally and listed 156 others as “probable,” according to its search-and-rescue data. The agency responds to 20,000 to 24,000 cases every year.