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Coast Guard investigates false distress calls

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 9:23 p.m. HST, Nov 9, 2012

Click here to listen to the false mayday call



The Coast Guard is asking for help in finding the source of recent false distress radio calls that appear to contain a child’s voice.

The Coast Guard said the calls have been occurring mainly in the east end of Oahu.

The most recent was 4 p.m. Tuesday when Coast Guard watchstanders in the Sector Honolulu Command Center received a call of a child’s voice saying, “Hello, hello, hello, hello. Mayday, 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,” the Coast Guard news release said.

On one audio recording released by the Coast Guard, a man’s voice could be heard repeating, “Mayday, mayday, mayday,” then a young child repeating the phrase.

The Coast Guard launched a helicopter crew to investigate Tuesday’s call, but no indications of distress were found.

“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.

The Coast Guard treats every call as an actual distress case, so if its boats or aircraft are responding to fake calls, another mariner in real distress may not get the timely assistance they need.

A false distress is a felony, and penalties include prison time, criminal fines, civil fines and reimbursement to the Coast Guard.

Mariners are urged to remove or lock up radios to prevent fraudulent calls from occurring, and to report suspected hoax callers to the Coast Guard’s tip line at 1-800-264-5980.

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