The Coast Guard is asking the public's help in locating the source of recent false distress calls which have been occurring mainly on the east end of Oahu. Crews have had four hoax calls in six weeks.
The most recent call occurred Tuesday, and was received at approximately 4 p.m. by Coast Guard watchstanders in the Sector Honolulu Command Center. The call was a child’s voice saying, “Hello, hello, hello, hello. Mayday, mayday."
Click here to hear the audio from the false mayday.
The voice sounded very similar, if not identical, to the voice heard on other recent radio calls that were eventually suspended as probable hoaxes after no source of distress could be located.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Oahu, was launched to investigate Tuesday's call. No indications of distress were located during the search. One vessel was located in the vicinity, but did not corroborate any mayday calls or signs of distress. The search was suspended at approximately 7:10 p.m., Tuesday.
"This may not occur to the hoax caller, but people could die as a result of prank calls," said Commander Steve Wheeler, Sector Honolulu's Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator. "Every call received by the Coast Guard is treated as an actual distress case. So while our boats and aircraft are out searching in response to these types of fake calls, another mariner, who truly is in distress, may not get the timely assistance they require."
Knowingly communicating a false distress or causing the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed is a felony. The penalties include prison time, criminal fines, civil fines and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the ample costs incurred in responding to the false call.
Mariners are encouraged to take steps to prevent the occurrence of fraudulent calls by removing radios or locking them up when not in use, teaching children appropriate use, and reporting suspected hoax callers to the Coast Guard tip line at 1-800-264-5980.