WILMINGTON, N.C. (WNCN) — The Coast Guard is asking for the public’s help with identifying the person responsible for making multiple hoax calls from the Pamlico Sound and Oregon Inlet area.
The caller says they are “going down” and broadcasts “mayday” or “help.”
The calls in the Pamlico Sound were made on VHF-FM marine radio channel 16 designated only for hailing and distress calls, the Coast Guard said.
The calls also include profanity.
“The Coast Guard is committed to saving lives,” said Capt. Bion Stewart, the commander of Sector North Carolina. “When someone makes a hoax distress call, we are required to respond. This uses up our limited resources, which may reduce our ability to respond to mariners actually in danger.”
Penalties for making a false distress call can include up to 10 years in prison, $250,000 in fines, plus the cost incurred by the search.
A search using an HC-130 Hercules airplane costs approximately $15,000 per hour, and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter operates at approximately $10,000 per hour. Boat rescues costs top out at approximately $5,000 per hour.
In 2014, Homer Lewis Blackburn from Atlantic Beach was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $288,390.80 for making false distress calls to the Coast Guard.
“Hoax calls are not funny, nor are they clever,” Stewart said. “They are irresponsible and dangerous. Have no doubt, we are committed to identifying and stopping those who are making hoax calls.”
If you have any information leading to the identification of a hoax caller, please contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) through the Sector North Carolina command center at 910-343-3880. Information leading to the successful identification of the hoax caller may be subject to a reward from CGIS.