The Coast Guard is trying to determine the source of calls broadcast over marine emergency channels that proved to be false alarms. Using these channels is like dialing 911 on the water,
The Coast Guard wants to identify the caller or callers to ensure safety on Lake Champlain and other waterways, as well as to ensure the emergency system is not being abused.
During the last two weeks of May Lake Champlain the Coast Guard station in Burlington, Vermont, received radio broadcasts of:
- A claim that the caller’s boat was taking on water and that the boater saw a great white shark in Lake Champlain’s fresh waters.
- “Mayday, mayday, mayday”
- “Mayday, mayday. Iceberg straight ahead… two crazy people on the bow, kissing,”
The Coast Guard said there is a serious punishment to match the crime of misusing emergency channels. A conviction comes with the potential of prison time and hefty fines, plus the cost of the unnecessary search in some cases.
“If we’re responding to a false claim of distress at the southern end of the lake and there’s an actual distress on the northern end, we’d have to divert and call in another crew. And it could cost someone’s life because we’re searching for someone who’s not there or in actual distress.” ~ Coast Guard Machinery Technician Third Class, Michael Knight
Knight pointed out the Coast Guard must handle even suspicious calls as if they are real. “It’s not a joke, it’s a crime,” he said. Knight also suggested parents watch their children playing with radios on boats, reminding them that emergency frequencies are not for fun.
Anyone who knows more about the calls is asked to call the Coast Guard’s northern New England sector at 207-767-0303.
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