FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla.- A call for help on the water means the U.S. Coast Guard kicks into high gear, but many times, the boats, helicopters, and planes find nothing. WINK News investigates how much these calls are costing you.
“Vessel in distress, this is Coast Guard Sector St. Pete., what is your position and nature of distress?”
That is a recording of the Coast Guard responding to a call a for help, but, in this particular case, the person on the other end of the radio didn’t respond again.
“We treat every uncorrelated mayday like a 911 hang up,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class, Jesse Ameigh.
The Coast Guard labels these calls an “uncorrelated mayday,” which is someone crying out for help, but not much more information.
Every time they get one of those calls, they send out officers to look.
“Everything is treated just like a real distress, even if it isn’t or never find out if it was,” said Ameigh.
WINK News uncovered the numbers, since October 1, 2014, the Coast Guard has received 23 “uncorrelated mayday” calls. Out of those calls, two were actual emergencies where officers saved six lives and three calls were considered hoaxes.
“Every time we launched a mission, we are risking our lives. A false distress, a hoax, that’s putting our lives at risk, and we are there to save lives,” said Ameigh.
In May 2014, WINK News was on the scene of a search for a missing boater near Sanibel. That sparked a nearly 24 hour long search and rescue mission, that boater was never found. Three aircraft and two boats were used, costing taxpayers over $330,000.
“The most important piece of information is the location. If you have a GPS, provide us with latitude and longitude,” Ameigh told WINK News.
But, regardless, one word for help is all the Coast Guard needs to deploy.
“It’s a great feeling, that’s why most of us join the Coast Guard, to get a case where you are actually saving a life.”
There are consequences if you call in a false call for help. You could be put behind bars and pay thousands of dollars in fines.