Rash of hoax calls plague Coast Guard

SEATTLE -- From a family in a sinking boat to a grisly discovery along the beach, the Coast Guard has heard it all.

The radio calls are usually legitimate, but that hasn't been the case recently. The Coast Guard said a number of hoax distress calls came in at the end of May and beginning of June.

"I need assistance. Got a baby on board and two adults," said a male voice somewhere near the Hoodsport area.

Petty Officer Katelyn Shearer with the Coast Guard said a 47-foot boat and helicopters were scrambled but were unable to find any vessel having trouble.

"We searched for hours and found absolutely nothing," she said.

The very next day, a man with a similar voice radioed a disturbing find.

"I found a body on Seabeck," he said.

That call raised serious concern with the Coast Guard and aroused suspicion and frustration.

"We search as if we are searching for members of our own family," Shearer said.

She said the false calls cost the Coast Guard over $200,000. Shearer said the frustration isn't just about the money, but also the danger for those on the water.

"It's the same thing with a false 911 call. If police are out responding to a call that wasn't an emergency they may not be available to respond to a real emergency," she said.

Making a hoax call is a felony and can send a fake caller to prison for up to ten years.