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pounds 20,000 sea rescuehoax.

COASTGUARDS have condemned a hoax emergency call, which sparked an extensive search for a ``sinking dinghy''.

Crews were scrambled early yesterday morning after the 999 call.

The fruitless search cost at least pounds 20,000, saidcoastguards.

Pwllheli lifeboat was launched and an RAF Sea King helicopter searched extensively,but nothing was found.

Last night, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) released a tape of the hoax call in an effort to try to identify the caller, who is believed to have also made a similar call on January 6.

Carl Hiltunen, Holyhead Coastguard Watch Manager, said: ``Hoax calls are wasteful and potentially life-threatening.

``Members of the rescue services are called away from homes and families, and put their own lives at risk often in horrendous conditions. Although we cannot put a value on human life we know that this call cost at least pounds 20,000.

``The important thing is that this hoax caller is found. Hoax calls can,and in this case did, tie up a valuable maritime search and rescue resource which might have been required elsewhere in a real life-savingincident.

``Those who risk their own safety to rescue others should not be put at needless risk in responding to bogus calls.

The latest hoax call came just after midnight when a 999 call from a mobile phone was received by the Coastguard Operations Room in Holyhead.

Mr Hiltunen said the caller reported the keel of his craft, a small dinghy,had been ripped off and it was taking in water six miles off Pwllheli.

``The male caller also reported that the battery on his mobile phone was low. We immediately requested the launch of the lifeboat and the helicopter and an extensive search was carried out.''

Police went to the address given for the mobile phone but the details did not correspond.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2004
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