Hawaii Coast Guard Looking for Source of False Distress Signals

The Coast Guard is asking the public’s help Friday, in locating the source of recent false distress calls which have been occurring mainly on the east end of Oahu.

Click here for false mayday audio download.

The most recent call occurred Tuesday, and was received at approximately 4 p.m. by Coast Guard watchstanders in the Sector Honolulu Command Center. The call was a child’s voice saying, “Hello, hello, hello, hello. Mayday, mayday.”

Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Thiessen gets lifted into the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter after a search and rescue demonstration for National Safe Boating Week in Honolulu Harbor, May 20, 2011. In support of National Safe Boating Week a press briefing was held at Station Honolulu where local agencies joined the Coast Guard to promote the kickoff.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Angela Henderson

The voice sounded very similar, if not identical, to the voice heard on other recent radio calls that were eventually suspended as probable hoaxes after no source of distress could be located.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Oahu, was launched to investigate Tuesday’s call. No indications of distress were located during the search. One vessel was located in the vicinity, but did not corroborate any mayday calls or signs of distress. The search was suspended at approximately 7:10 p.m., Tuesday.

“This may not occur to the hoax caller, but people could die as a result of prank calls,” said Commander Steve Wheeler, Sector Honolulu’s Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator. “Every call received by the Coast Guard is treated as an actual distress case. So while our boats and aircraft are out searching in response to these types of fake calls, another mariner, who truly is in distress, may not get the timely assistance they require.”

Knowingly communicating a false distress or causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed is a felony.  The penalties include prison time, criminal fines, civil fines and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the ample costs incurred in responding to the false call.

Mariners are encouraged to take steps to prevent the occurrence of fraudulent calls by removing radios or locking them up when not in use, teaching children appropriate use, and reporting suspected hoax callers to the Coast Guard tip line at 1-800-264-5980.

For more information contact the 14th Coast Guard District Public Affairs Office at 808-535-3230.

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