CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Coast Guard rescued a fisherman Thursday night from a 12-foot dinghy less than a mile west of Fort De Soto.
At 7:48 p.m. watch standers from Sector St. Petersburg received two mayday calls via VHF-FM marine band radio channel 16 from a man stating he was beset by weather, taking on water and in need of emergency assistance.
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Clearwater was diverted, and the area’s Marine Emergency Response Team was activated.
This could of been a tragic situation,” said Lt. Matthew Mayer, an MH-60 Jayhawk pilot from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater. “Thankfully the fisherman had a working VHF radio so he could alert us of the distress immediately and we were able to rescue him in time; however, I recommend all boaters pay close attention to the local forecast before even leaving the dock.”
The Jayhawk crew arrived on scene at 8:46 p.m., hoisted the man before his boat capsized and transported him to Air Station Clearwater at 9:15 p.m. in stable condition. No injuries were reported.
The Coast Guard asks for the public’s help Friday to identify hoax callers in the Cape Coral area.
For the past year, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg watch standers received a steady stream of suspected or confirmed hoax radio calls along the Gulf Coast – the majority of the calls are within the Cape Coral area.
The calls were made on VHF-FM marine band channel 16, a channel designated only for hailing and distress calls. A call is considered a hoax when there is an intent to deceive the Coast Guard or emergency responders.
“Hoax calls are costly to the taxpayer and our service,” said Charles ‘Marty’ Russell, resident agent-in-charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service office in St. Petersburg. “When the Coast Guard receives a distress call, we immediately respond, putting our crews at risk, and risking the lives of boaters who may legitimately need our help.”
Penalties for making a false distress call can include six years in prison, $250,000 criminal fine, $5,000 civil fine and restitution to the Coast Guard and local agencies.
If you have any information leading to the identification of a hoax caller, please contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service tip line at 727-535-1437, ext. 2308.