At five minutes to four yesterday afternoon Milford Haven Coastguard received a call from Ambulance Control informing them that they had received a 999 call from a young person reporting that they were on board a small vessel in difficulty between Newport Bay in Pembrokeshire, and the Cardigan Estuary off the Coast of Wales.
Neither Ambulance Control, nor Milford Haven Coastguard were able to reach the original caller via their mobile phone to obtain more information, and so the Coastguard launched several resources to begin a search of the area. Coastguard Rescue Teams from Moylgrove and Penrhyn began a visual search from the coast, and two RNLI lifeboats were launched from Cardigan, along with the Fishguard lifeboats to begin the waterborne search. RAF Rescue Helicopter 122 was tasked to carry out a search from the air.
Milford Haven Coastguard also made an urgency broadcast to all vessels in the area to keep a sharp lookout.
After liaising with Ambulance and Police, the Coastguard requested that a search be done to locate the mobile phone user. The report came back that the source of the call was from land in the Fishguard area – not where the informant reported they were calling from.
After several attempts to call back the number by the Police and Milford Haven Coastguard, it was designated as a hoax call, and all units on scene were released at ten past six.
Barry Skidmore, Milford Haven Watch Manager said:
“Making hoax calls is a criminal offence, and one that not only wastes the time of rescue teams sent to their aide, but also wastes taxpayer's money whilst these resources are out searching.
If there had been a genuine incident whilst all of these resources were out searching for a sinking vessel that did not exist, these resources might not have been able to respond as quickly, and people's safety could have been compromised.
Our Coastguard Rescue Officers are volunteers who dedicate their own personal time to helping people in need, and it is disgraceful to waste their valuable time on a hoax call.”