The Coast Guard is intensifying its investigating into a suspected hoax caller after multiple distress calls were made on VHF-FM Channel 16 last week near Lincolnville, Maine.
As part of this investigation, the Coast Guard is seeking the public’s assistance to identify the caller or provide additional information.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England in Portland, Maine, received mayday calls April 23 and 25 over VHF- Channel 16 with no position or nature of distress.
Using the Rescue 21 Radio System, watchstanders were able to determine the location of the mayday call to the Lincolnville area.
These calls are believed to be associated to the same male caller who has made at least 12 other hoax calls in the past 3 years from the same general area, resulting in more than 50 hours of search time by Coast Guard and local responders at a cost of more than $188,000.
Hoax calls are particularly frustrating cases for both the maritime emergency responder and the taxpayers, as they unnecessarily put first responders in danger, waste valuable operational hours and come at a heavy cost.
“The Coast Guard treats every distress call very seriously and takes action to respond to those in need of assistance,” said Lt. Nick Barrow, supervisor of the search-and-rescue command center in Portland. “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 watch standers in determining if a real emergency exists, and investigate or correlate suspected hoax callers. In this case, we are asking for the public’s help to further our efforts to identify who we believe to be a repeat offender in Penobscot Bay.
Under federal law, knowingly and willfully transmitting a hoax distress call is a felony. It is punishable by up to 6 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution to the Coast Guard for all costs incurred while responding to the call.
The Coast Guard is requesting anyone who recognizes the voice in these mayday calls or has any information to contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service in Portland at (207) 780-3087. There is a reward of up to $1,000 to be paid for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person involved with the hoax call.
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