Hoax mayday call leads to 2-hour search

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – A man in Flagler County sent Coast Guard responders and a search helicopter on a wild goose chase after he made a hoax distress call Wednesday afternoon.

The search went on for two hours, and the Coast Guard said it cost thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.

"We take it seriously," said Austin Campbell, of Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville. "We have protocol and procedures in place. We launch our assets and treat it as if it's a real case until we can determine otherwise or we actually find someone in distress."

The Coast Guard's Rescue 21 system is designed to help locate people in distress. It also helps locate where the mayday calls are coming from.

The system pointed crews toward the Intracoastal Waterway near Flagler Beach. Crews found nothing until they got a second call, this one by phone.

"Later on in the afternoon, we received a call from one of the citizens in the area who was working at a company that said one of his employees may have made the mayday call," Campbell said.

He said the call was made from a boat yard. The Coast Guard said the fake call cost taxpayers more than $3,000, and that's not including the cost of the helicopter from Flagler County or the response from the command center in Jacksonville.

"He said he didn't know what he had put in motion when he did make that call," Campbell said. "He felt very embarrassed by it and realized that he had made a very poor error in judgment."

The Coast Guard said if someone makes a distress call with malicious intent, it's considered a felony and that person can face up to 10 years in prison, several fines and may have to reimburse the Coast Guard for the search.

Right now, no charges have been filed against the man who made the hoax call.