The U.S. Coast Guard is seeking the public’s help in identifying a hoax caller that made multiple false distress calls earlier this month in the Puget Sound area and leading to lengthy and very expensive searches.
The first call come at 11p.m on May 31 when Vessel Traffic Services in Seattle received a Mayday call on Channel 14 from a man reporting that five people were donning life jackets and abandoning the burning fishing vessel Bristol Maid in Lilliwaup Bay, Hood Canal. A search involving two Coast Guard helicopters, a response boat medium, and a local sheriff’s boat crew completed multiple searches with no sign of the reported incident. LISTEN – First Call
The following evening, VTS received a similar call at about 9 p.m. from a man reporting that two adults and a child were donning life jackets and abandoning a vessel taking on water between Hoodsport and Lilliwaup Bay. Again, search and rescue crews searched for more than three hours without finding any signs of distress. LISTEN – Second Call
Officials also believe the same caller placed a third false call to the Coast Guard around 10 p.m. on June 2. LISTEN – Third Call
The coast guard says that the combined searches resulting from the false distress calls cost over $200,000 of taxpayer money.
The coast guard wants to remind the public that making a false distress call is a federal felony with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a $5,000 civil penalty, plus possible restitution.
faces a maximum penalty of six years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and $82,764 in restitution when she is sentenced in October.
U.S. Coast Guard Photo