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Fake mayday calls in O.C. send Coast Guard scrambling

October 29, 2012 |  8:54 am

U.S. Coast Guard officials are trying to track down a man who has reported several fake distress calls regarding sinking ships, wasting time and money on rescue efforts.

Coast Guard officials say the fake distress calls divert help from people who really need it. In the last week, a man that the Coast Guard has tracked to Orange County has made six calls over the radio in the last week.

He has prompted two attempted rescues and says things like, "Mayday, mayday, my dog ate my homework," before he claims he's drowning or had some sort of accident.

In the last hoax call on Friday night just before 8 p.m., the man said his boat was sinking in Newport Harbor.

The Coast Guard — which takes all calls seriously — deployed a vessel that costs a whopping $2,600 per hour and a helicopter that runs more than $8,600 per hour.

In all, the 12½-hour search cost taxpayers about $50,000, exhausted resources and, according to officials, potentially put other boaters at risk.

"If we get a mayday call and they can determine where it's coming from, boaters are asked to try to render assistance," said Richard Hedson, who has been boating for 30 years.

"It would be quite upsetting to find out that you took on risk to yourself only to find out that it was a jokester," he said.

The distress caller reported from Newport Harbor and said his boat was sinking. The Coast Guard arrived and searched for hours but found nothing.

Now investigators are trying to find out who is making the bogus calls. If they find the man, he could face stiff penalties.


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