ROCKLAND, Maine — The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for three fishermen who allegedly went missing in the waters off Spruce Head early Thursday morning after determining the distress call it received was likely a hoax.
Crews began searching the area around 6:30 a.m. after receiving a “mayday” that a boat had taken on water. The captain was allegedly trying to get to Atwood’s Lobster Co., but the crew was preparing to jump ship.
But the search was suspended shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, when the agency determined there were “no indications of distress or missing persons in the area,” according to a tweet from the U.S. Coast Guard First District.
The decision to suspend the search was made after crews searched 62-nautical square miles, but failed to find a debris field or any indications that a boat sank, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Briana Carter.
The Coast Guard is calling the distress call a “probable hoax.” In the recording received by rescue crews, an unidentified man could be heard saying, “Mayday. Mayday. We lost our rudder. And we’re taking on water fast. We don’t have enough pumps to keep up with it.”
At no point did the man identify himself or the name of the vessel, a common practice among fishermen when issuing a mayday.
The Coast Guard has opened an investigation into the source of the call, Carter said.
“When [a hoax call] happens it is not good,” Carter said. “There are consequences for having a false distress.”
The alleged hoax comes just over a week after four Maine fishermen were lost at sea off the coast of Massachusetts when the Portland-based vessel Emmy Rose sank.
This is not the first time Coast Guard crews have responded to a hoax call in the waters off midcoast Maine. In 2013, the agency was investigating more than a dozen fake distress calls that appeared to originate from the same man over a period of several years.