Coast Guard Warns Against False Distress Reports - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/17/04

Coast Guard Warns Against False Distress Reports

A distress call sent the Coast Guard scrambling last night, and it turned into a wild goose chase. Lives and safety could have been compromised by the made-up mayday. The Coast Guard received a call from someone claiming to be stranded in a raft somewhere off the Savannah River. When they searched, they didn't find anything. They're warning hoaxers their actions won't be taken lightly.

Every time Lt. Paul Coleman goes out on a rescue, his life--and his crews' lives--are on the line. "We get in risky situations sometimes, but we try to mitigate the risk as best as possible," he told us.

Except when the call's a hoax. Yesterday afternoon, a call forced Coast Guard rescue personnel into action. Lt. Coleman's crew searched from Tybee Island on down the Savannah River to Garden City. They found nothing, because there was nothing to find.

For Lt. Coleman, these hoaxes happen way too often. As the summer goes on, the number of goose-chases he is sent on will increase. Coast Guard officials say most times, the perpetrators are children. "They are out there having fun," said Coast Guard commander Jason Church.

Church says they will seek legal action against anybody who tries to trick them, and if a child is at fault, they'll hold the parents responsible. "There are penalties to pay," he said. "People need to be very careful."

Lt. Coleman says they treat every call like the real thing, but frustrations do build. "It's not a good idea to put us at risk," he said. "It takes us away from doing other things."

The Coast Guard has the Garden City Police Department investigating the the hoax. If you get caught trying to fool the Coast Guard, you could spend six years in prison and pay more than $255,000 in fines and penalties.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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