Coast Guard launches two rescue searches

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff
Posted April 22, 2010, at 9:26 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The U.S. Coast Guard station at Rockland received two mayday calls this week, which officials are calling probable hoaxes. Two searches were launched after distress calls were sent over the radio.

“Help me,” a person said over the radio waves Monday, April 19. When Coast Guard officers tried to contact the person, there was no response.

Officers heard, “Mayday, mayday, mayday. I need help. I am on dry land,” over the radio on Wednesday.

Either call could have originated anywhere between Camden and Bucksport, according to Coast Guard commanding officer Curtis Barthel.

Monday’s caller triggered a four-hour, 20-minute search, which included launching Rockland’s 25-foot response boat, a Falcon Jet from Cape Cod and an HH-60 helicopter from Cape Cod. The HH-60 helicopter was sent after the Falcon Jet ran low on fuel and headed back to Massachusetts. The boat and helicopter found nothing and ended their searches at 11:08 p.m. The Falcon Jet was relaunched the next morning and again found nothing. That case has been suspended.

Wednesday’s venture didn’t take as long. The 25-foot Coast Guard vessel splashed through waters in Penobscot Bay for 28 minutes before the Coast Guard deemed the call to be a probable hoax, which ended the search.

“When he said ‘on dry land,’ he really helped us out,” Barthel said. “It helped us to determine it was a hoax.”

Barthel said there was no distress in the man’s voice and that the man seemed to chuckle during the call. That case is closed.

Boaters are unhappy.

“You know it’s bad because boaters call in and they are getting sick of them,” Barthel said of the calls.

The most frustrating part of hoax distress calls, Barthel said, is that they divert resources away from stations, where they should be in case of a real emergency.

“If there was a real case, we don’t have the resources to respond,” he said.

The helicopter that hovered over the midcoast Monday covers the area from New York City to the Maine border.

The cost of the searches has not been determined.

Anyone with information about these two distress calls may contact the Rockland Coast Guard at 596-6667.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/04/22/news/coast-guard-launches-two-rescue-searches/ printed on August 2, 2014