A Maine man is charged with making a false distress call to the Coast Guard on Dec. 3, 10 days after four fishermen, including Michael Porper of Gloucester, were lost at sea when the fishing vessel Emmy Rose sank off Cape Cod.
Nathan Libby of Rockland, Maine is charged with making the mayday call to the Coast Guard around 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 3 via VHF-FM radio channel 16.
The caller over several minutes described a 42-foot fishing vessel and its three-man crew, saying the boat was taking on water off Spruceheads, Maine, the rudder was broken and the dewatering pumps could not keep up with flooding.
Based on the call, the Coast Guard began a search that spanned more than five hours, which included the use of a Coast Guard rescue crews from Rockland, Maine, a Maine Marine Patrol vessel, and a helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod.
"Today’s hoax is particularly offensive given the loss of four fishermen aboard the Emmy Rose just last week," said Capt. Brian LeFebvre, commanding officer of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, on Dec. 3 after the Coast Guard suspended the search.
The Coast Guard called off the search for the men of the Portland, Maine-based Emmy Rose on Nov. 24 after covering 2,066 square miles of sea over more than 38 hours. Station Gloucester's patrol boat Key Largo and its crew participated in the search for the crew. Only a life raft and debris from the boat, which sank early Nov. 23 off Provincetown en route to Fisherman's Wharf Gloucester to land a 45,000- to 50,000-pound catch, was found.
A criminal complaint was filed on Jan. 27 in the U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, against Libby. Willfully communicating a false distress message to the Coast Guard is a felony offense under federal law, and Libby faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the crime.
"Our Coast Guard rescue crews thrive on taking risks for the sake of helping others in trouble on the water," said LeFebvre in a prepared statement Friday. “Calls like this hoax call unnecessarily put our rescue crews at risk, drain resources, and may limit our ability to respond to actual emergencies"
The investigation was carried out by Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Department of Justice, Maine Marine Patrol, and Rockland, Maine, Police Department.