BEAUFORT, N.C. (WAVY) - The Coast Guard is asking for the public's help identifying the person who made a possible prank distress call Sunday afternoon.
Around 2:45 p.m. Sunday, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector North Carolina Command Center received a distress call through VHF-Channel 16 from a boater who said he was near Core Creek Bridge. The man said he, along with five adults and two children, was aboard a boat that was taking on water.
In response, the Coast Guard issued an urgent marine information broadcast and sent watchstanders by boat from Coast Guard Station Fort Macon, N.C. Other responders arrived by helicopter from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Emergency Rescue Squadron "PEDRO" and by boat from the Atlantic Beach and Morehead City fire departments.
After an extensive search, responders were unable to find any signs of the vessel or the boaters in distress and have reason to believe the distress call was a hoax, which is a felony offense punishable by up to six years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"False distress calls limit the Coast Guard's ability to respond to actual emergencies," said Cmdr. Joseph Dufresne, deputy commander of Sector North Carolina, in a press release. "Ultimately, they penalize the local communities and mariners the Coast Guard is charged to protect by unnecessarily endangering the lives of responders and wasting hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars."
The Coast Guard is offering a reward of up to $2,000 to anyone who can correctly identify the person who sent out the prank distress call.
The map provided above marks the spot where the distress caller said he was located by an "X" in the top left of the map. The intersection of the red and blue lines marks the location where the Coast Guard's search and rescue radio towers think the caller's actual location was. The video play above plays the recorded distress calls from Sunday.
Anyone who recognizes the voice in the distress call or knows anything about the hoax is asked to call the CGIS Resident Agent Office at 910-772-2229 or the Sector North Carolina Operations Center at 910-343-3881.
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