2012-11-08 / News

Coast Guard investigates possible hoax call

The Coast Guard is investigating a possible hoax mayday call after distress calls were made Nov. 1 near Narragansett Bay with no position or nature of distress.

Officials were able to determine the location of the call to Mount Hope Bay and the Providence River area.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Cape Cod immediately launched an initial search for the source of the call and conducted a second search Friday morning with no correlating signs of distress.

“By policy, the Coast Guard is required to search for every distress call regardless of the assumed source,” said Coast Guard Lt. Bryan Swintek. “Calls like this one needlessly put an unnecessary strain on our crews and divert our attention from mariners who are actually in distress.”

According to the Coast Guard, hoax calls are particularly frustrating for both the emergency personnel and the taxpayers, as they unnecessarily put first responders in danger, waste valuable operational hours, and come at a heavy cost.

In the last two years there have been 23 hoax calls by a male voice in the Warwick area accounting for more than 100 hours of search time by the Coast Guard and local responders. The cost is estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“This case is especial frustrating because the helicopters and crews that were used are the same that are providing vital support to the port of New York and the communities affected by Hurricane Sandy across the Eastern Seaboard,” said Coast Guard Capt. Verne Gifford.

Under federal law, knowingly and willfully transmitting a hoax distress call is a felony. It is 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 distress.

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