Man may face charges after allegedly calling in false report about sinking ship

At a South Portland press conference, Capt. Brian S. Gilda shows where the Coast Guard searched for a possibly sinking sail boat today off Pemaquid Point. The search was suspended at 3:20 p.m.
At a South Portland press conference, Capt. Brian S. Gilda shows where the Coast Guard searched for a possibly sinking sail boat today off Pemaquid Point. The search was suspended at 3:20 p.m. Buy Photo
Posted Jan. 27, 2014, at 4:45 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 27, 2014, at 7:13 p.m.

BRISTOL, Maine — The Lincoln County district attorney’s office will determine whether to file charges against a man who phoned in a report of a sinking sailboat off Pemaquid Neck earlier this month.

The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies spent almost 10 hours searching the 40-degree waters on Jan. 17 before calling off the operation.

Jeff Nichols, spokesman for the Maine Department of Marine Resources, said Monday that the man who reported the sinking boat — he declined to name the man or say where he lives — could face a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report.

“It’s really the district attorney’s call,” Nichols said Monday. “We’re going to present the information and let the district attorney decide whether or not it warrants charges.”

Early the morning of Jan. 17, the U.S. Coast Guard, Maine Marine Patrol, and local law enforcement and fire departments launched a full-scale search off Pemaquid Neck after a man calling on a cellphone reported seeing a boat that was taking on water.

After a 10-hour search that spanned 680 square nautical miles from Cape Small to Muscongus Bay to Monhegan Island and included a Coast Guard plane and helicopter, along with several boats, the Coast Guard called off the search — but declined to label it a hoax.

However, Nichols said Monday that no additional information about the allegedly distressed boat was ever reported.

After the search, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Brian S. Gilda said the man reported receiving a cellphone call from a person he knew telling him the boat was taking on water. Gilda said officials received “a couple variations of the story,” but that the man said two or three people were on board, one may have attempted to swim to shore, and the sailors “could have been a father-son team moving a vessel” to Maine from Massachusetts.

Gilda said the Coast Guard at no point had a name of the boat reported to be sinking — or who might be aboard.

A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Northern New England in South Portland did not immediately return a phone call Monday afternoon.

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