DENNYSVILLE, Maine — Coast Guard Sector Northern New England early Sunday morning was ready to launch a search for a missing fisherman out of Cobscook Bay State Park, when the Facebook Web site helped locate information that ultimately closed the case.
The information saved taxpayers nearly $30,000, Coast Guard officials said in a press release Monday.
It all started after a Cobscook Bay State Park ranger notified the Coast Guard on Sunday that a lone vehicle and trailer with no boat were sitting in the parking lot Sunday morning. Using the license plate number provided by the park ranger, the Coast Guard identified the name, address and phone number of the vehicle owner but a call to the man’s home went unanswered. The missing man, who was not identified by Coast Guard officials, is from the Kennebunkport area.
Before launching a costly search by Coast Guard aircraft and cutters, Paul Conner, the search and rescue controller at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England who was running the case, decided to use the social networking site Facebook to enhance his search efforts, the release said. He was looking for any contact information on the missing fisherman or his relatives.
“Sometimes we have to be very creative in our information gathering,” Conner said in the release. “A simple Internet search can often help us locate a missing person before a boat or aircraft is even on scene.”
Conner said in a telephone interview Monday, that he often checks the Internet ahead of launching a search.
“If I get the guy’s name, I will run him [through] one of the directory assistants, either 401.com or AnyWho.com,” he said. “Then you get into USSearch and you get names of family members — if you can’t get a hold of the person of interest, then I try to get a hold of [the relatives].”
In the case of the Kennebunkport man, Conner found an e-mail address and contact number for one of his relatives. It turned out to be the man’s daughter. Conner sent an e-mail to the listed address, but in the end the phone number led him to speak to the fisherman directly.
“The father — the person we were looking for — answered the phone” he said. It turned out the missing man was moored at a different location from his trailer and vehicle and not in any distress, the release said.
“For over 200 years the Coast Guard has been using any means necessary to fulfill our mission,” Capt. Jim McPherson, commander at Sector Northern New England, said in the release. “Now we can add social online media as another tool in our lifesaving kit.”