BOURNE (CBS) – The U.S. Coast Guard searched Buzzards Bay after receiving a mayday call Wednesday night, but did not find any vessels in distress.
A mumbled male voice could be heard issuing the mayday call around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The call was repeated around 8:53 p.m.
The search was suspended around 1 p.m. Thursday with “no findings or correlating information.”
“It was literally a mayday call, ‘Mayday, mayday, mayday,’ which is international sound for distress,” said Coast Guard Lt. Commander Stephen Hart. “There was apprehension in the individual’s voice, so we treated it as distress and launched accordingly.”
The Coast Guard did not know the exact location, nature of distress, description of vessel, or how many people may have been on board.
Several departments combined to search 767 square nautical miles through the air and on the waters of Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.
“It’s definitely challenging in a case like this, where you don’t have a position or a nature of distress to really focus on, an individual or on a focus search area,” Hart said.
The mayday call came in on a standard Marine radio frequency, on an emergency channel. The fact that it was picked up at the Coast Guard station at Woods Hole means the caller was within 40 or 50 miles.
“Any call that comes in, especially a mayday call, we’re going to immediately treat it as distress,” Hart said.
If the call was a hoax, the search cost thousands of dollars in fuel and put Coast Guard lives at risk in the dead of night.
“It’s pretty bad, there’s a lot of people out there on the water, all trying to find somebody that may or may not be there. It’s cold. It’s dark, and it’s dangerous,” said Army Corps of Engineers Capt. Chris DeMello.
Fire boats from New Bedford to Mattapoisett were also involved in the search.