ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After an hour of searching for an overturned boat in the St. Augustine Inlet without finding anything, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended rescue efforts and is considering the distress call a hoax.
In addition to the Coast Guard, Florida Game and the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office searched for the boat Sunday afternoon after someone made a mayday call about 3:30 p.m. Now they're searching for whoever made what they consider a false call, who could face thousands of dollars in fines and a prison term.
"Whenever we are tied up doing stuff like (this), it really hinders our personnel capabilities to be able to respond to other things, especially if it's in a completely different direction," Coast Guard Boatswain's Mate Jared Phillips said.
But because seconds count in the saving of a life, they respond to all mayday calls. But one trip from a Coast Guard search boat could cost $5,000 and the agency said it receives about 160 false distress calls or hoax calls every year in the country. According to News4Jax records, there were two hoax calls in Northeast Florida in 2015.
The Coast Guard said they will find the prankster, who could face up to a $250,000 fine and up to six years in prison "If you are knowingly and willingly making a false distress or hoax call intentionally."
"We have different ways that we can figure out who it was. We have forensic technology ... that can pinpoint your location," Phillips said.