A Fake Distress Call May Have Cost Two Lives at Sea

BOSTON - The call, on a marine hailing frequency, was urgent and chilling: A ship somewhere on the freezing waters off Massachusetts was transmitting a last-ditch plea for help.

``This is the fishing vessel Sol E Mar,'' a male voice shouted in frenzy. ``We're sinkin'. We need help now!''

The plea rose into a scream. The transmission was abruptly cut. Then, there was only crackling static.

Coast Guard radio monitors on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard tried desperately to get the caller back to locate the ship and send help.

But just over a minute after the first call, another distress signal came in.

``SOS, I'm sinking,'' a male voice said. And then he laughed.

The Coast Guard officers didn't dispatch rescue planes or boats. The calls, they thought, were just part of the rising number of hoaxes.

Last Friday, five days later, they discovered they were wrong. The Sol E Mar was reported missing and the Coast Guard began a search for the father and son who manned the 50-foot fishing vessel.

By then, it was too late.

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Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons