WILMINGTON, N.C. (WAVY) — The Coast Guard is asking for the public’s help in identifying a caller who is suspected to have made seven false distress calls during the past two years.
Coast Guard officials say the calls were made by what seems to be a man in distress. The calls were made in the New Bern area during the months of September 2012 through December 2013 and in September through October of 2014. The most recent call was on Oct. 16.
Here is audio of the suspected hoax distress call to Coast Guard in NC:
The Coast Guard issued urgent marine information broadcasts and launched response boat crews and helicopter crews. The combined response efforts to the calls is estimated to have cost the Coast Guard more than $150,000. That cost does not include the expense of local fire department crews or Marine Corps rescue helicopter crews who also responded as a result of the calls.
“When the Coast Guard dispatches vessels and aircraft for false distress broadcasts, it obligates limited resources to unnecessary searches and puts additional costs on the Coast Guard and the taxpayer,” said Lt. Lane Munroe, command center chief and public affairs officer at Sector North Carolina. “Above all else, it puts the lives of our personnel at risk. We are asking anyone with information about this caller to please come forward.”
Officials say making fake distress calls is a federal crime, and the caller could face up to 10 years in prison, including a $250,000 fine.
Anyone with information that can identify the hoax caller is requested to call 910-343-3880.