Hoax emergency calls radioed to the U.S. Coast Guard - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Hoax emergency calls radioed to the U.S. Coast Guard

Posted: Updated:
DETROIT (WJBK) -

Someone is targeting the local Coast Guard with phony emergency calls.  The person pretends to be in distress on the water, but it's nothing more than a dangerous hoax.

The Coast Guard command center in Detroit jumped into action when this mayday call came in over the emergency radio channel:

"Mayday, mayday, my boat's sinking in Lake Erie."

There have been similar other calls.  Each time the Coast Guard responded with a full scale search, but nothing ever turned up.  The calls were hoaxes.

These hoax calls for help began in late 2010.

"In many of the calls, he's reporting his vessel in distress.  He's reporting that he's sinking in Lake Erie.  He's reporting that in one of the calls his airplane is in distress and crashing in Lake Erie," said Lieutenant Justin Westmiller.   "During a few of those calls, we knew that we were in the middle of winter on Lake Erie and that most of Lake Erie was frozen."

Judging by the strength of the radio signal, the Coast Guard determined a general area where the distress calls were made.

"We were able to determine through various methods that at least the vast majority of them were coming in from the Bolles Harbor / Monroe, Michigan area," said Special Agent Ryan Warnke.

The phony calls for help included reports of a vessel fire.

Now every time the Coast Guard jumps into action, even if it's a hoax, Coast Guard members are at considerable risk.

"We're moving people, we're moving vessels, we're moving aircraft, and in all of those operations they're inherently dangerous.  We like to keep those to operations where we know that they're required and necessary," Westmiller explained.

A hoax call for help is a felony and it may keep the Coast Guard from responding to a real emergency.

"One of the reasons why we suspected that these were fraudulent, in a normal emergency situation, the person is going to want to give the Coast Guard or the sheriff's department, whoever answers, as much information as possible, including their position, and this person never once gave a physical area where he was," Warnke said.

How many people are making these hoax calls?  It could be one person or perhaps two.  They're really not sure.

There is a $1,000 if you have information leading to an arrest.  Call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • FBI joins the search for Armada teen's killer

    FBI joins the search for Armada teen's killer

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:08 PM EDT2014-07-26 03:08:38 GMT
    The FBI has joined the investigation team searching for the killer of a 14-year-old Armada girl, April Millsap.
    The FBI has joined the investigation team searching for the killer of a 14-year-old Armada girl, April Millsap. Authorities also say they are now looking for a small motorcycle in addition to the gray, dented van seen in the area.
  • Vandals damage historic Detroit cemetery

    Vandals damage historic Detroit cemetery

    Friday, July 25 2014 10:38 PM EDT2014-07-26 02:38:55 GMT
    Police are looking for suspects after vandals disturb the peace at a historic Detroit cemetery. Someone broke into a mausoleum and made a mess with spray paint and ashes.
    Police are looking for suspects after vandals disturb the peace at a historic Detroit cemetery. Someone broke into a mausoleum and made a mess with spray paint and ashes.
  • Man hospitalized after run-in with Ecorse police

    Man hospitalized after run-in with Ecorse police

    Friday, July 25 2014 10:05 PM EDT2014-07-26 02:05:54 GMT
    Witnesses and lawyers say a man was attacked by Ecorse police Monday morning even though he was complying with police demands.
    Witnesses and lawyers say a man was attacked by Ecorse police Monday morning even though he was complying with police demands.
  • Ron SavageRon SavageMore>>

  • FBI joins the search for Armada teen's killer

    FBI joins the search for Armada teen's killer

    Friday, July 25 2014 11:08 PM EDT2014-07-26 03:08:38 GMT
    The FBI has joined the investigation team searching for the killer of a 14-year-old Armada girl, April Millsap.
    The FBI has joined the investigation team searching for the killer of a 14-year-old Armada girl, April Millsap. Authorities also say they are now looking for a small motorcycle in addition to the gray, dented van seen in the area.
  • Livonia man dies after 2 dogs attack him

    Livonia man dies after 2 dogs attack him

    Thursday, July 24 2014 10:02 PM EDT2014-07-25 02:02:32 GMT
    A 46-year-old Livonia man was killed Wednesday evening after he was attacked by two dogs while jogging in Metamora.
    A 46-year-old Livonia man was killed Wednesday evening after he was attacked by two dogs while jogging in Metamora.
  • Neighbors want neglected Detroit Rogell Golf Course cleaned up

    Neighbors want neglected Detroit Rogell Golf Course cleaned up

    Thursday, July 24 2014 10:19 AM EDT2014-07-24 14:19:43 GMT
    One of Detroit's most popular sports attractions is now a grown over weedbed. Neighbors say their favorite golf course has become an eyesore.
    One of Detroit's most popular sports attractions is now a grown over weedbed. Neighbors say their favorite golf course has become an eyesore.
Powered by WorldNow

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices