At about 2 p.m. Saturday, U.S. Coast Guard San Juan Sector received a “Mayday” call just once: “Mayday Mayday; can anyone hear me?”
The call came in on VHF Channel 16 and went to the Rescue 21 platform that allows the Coast Guard to get a bearing on the call.
According to USCG spokesman Ricardo Castrodad, the distress call seemed to come from about 60 miles north northeast of St. Thomas. Castrodad said the Coast Guard immediately reached out to Customs and Border Patrol, who had an aircraft in the area.
“It was expeditious,” Castrodad said.
But after an extensive search of the area, there were no sightings.
Meanwhile a Coast Guard helicopter was deployed from Air Station Borinquen to search the area where the call seemed to have originated. The USCG aircraft made a full sweep of the ocean between Puerto Rico all the way to where the call seemed to originate north of St. Thomas as well. But nothing was found.
A second call from a vessel north of St. Croix that also claimed to have heard the Mayday call led to another CBP Air and Marine search aircraft to be sent to the area north of St. Croix, but again there were no sightings.
Castrodad said that no visibly distressed watercraft, coupled with no reports of missing or late vessels, led the Coast Guard shut down the search. He also said, the USCG San Juan Sector gets its fair share of false alerts adding that making a fake distress call is a federal offense.
It’s also a waste of resources that might be needed for a real emergency. Castrodad said another way to waste resources is to not report when a vessel or person reported missing has been found. He cited a recent case of a missing person from St. Thomas who was found on Culebra. He reinforced the importance of making that “found” call.
“Resources are compromised” when the authorities are not immediately notified when a person or vessel that was reported missing is found, he said.
If anyone does know of a vessel that is currently overdue or missing in the areas noted, Castrodad said the Coast Guard would relaunch Saturday’s search. The phone number to call is 787-289-2041.