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June 19, 2014 at 8:40 AM

Prank caller launches 3 costly Coast Guard searches

The Coast Guard is searching for a prankster who the Guard says has made a series of fake distress calls since last month.

According to a news release, rescuers were dispatched around 11 p.m. on May 31 to a may-day call reporting five people abandoning the fishing vessel Bristol Maid in Lilliwaup Bay, Hood Canal, because of a fire. The two choppers from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles and a 45-foot Coast Guard ship and a Mason County Sheriff’s Office crew went to help. No burning vessel or anyone in distress were found. The Coast Guard said the search cost of the five-hour search was $138,000.

A distress call reporting two adults and a child donning life jackets and fleeing a vessel between Hoodsport and Lilliwaup Bay was received around 9 p.m. on June 1. The person calling in initially reported the ship being named Bristol Maid, the same name as the vessel allegedly in distress the night before. The caller then changed the name of the vessel to the Aleutian Beauty. A Coast Guard helicopter crew, several boat crews and a tribal fisheries boat searched for more than three hours for the vessel. The Coast Guard said the cost of this search was about $71,000.

A third may-day call was received by the Coast Guard around 10 p.m. on June 2. Details about this call  are being looked into by the Coast Guard, said Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley.

“The Coast Guard takes every distress call seriously,” Capt. Michael W. Raymond, commander of Sector Puget Sound said in the news release.

Making a false distress call is a federal felony that could result in an up to 10-year prison sentence, a $250,000 fine and a $5,000 civil penalty.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Coast Guard 13th District Command Center at (206) 220-7003.

Comments | Topics: Coast Guard, Hood Canal, prank caller

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