Two Rhode Island men who set off flares from a boat to celebrate a friend’s wedding have been fined $10,000 for sparking a needless Coast Guard search and rescue operation.
Officials wanted the pair to cover the over $100,000 cost of the hour-and-a-half search that included two helicopters and a surface vessel. However, the Rhode Island division of the federal Department of Justice will dismiss the civil suit against Perry C. Phillips, 31, and Benjamin C. Foster, 33, after they each pay a $5,000 fine.
Phillips and Foster took a skiff into the waters near a wedding reception on Block Island on the evening of June 6, 2020. Around 9:30 p.m., the pair sent up three flares and then returned to shore, unaware that the flares were reported to the harbormaster, who in turn alerted the Coast Guard. The pair posted videos of the incident on social media.
“As a matter of commonly accepted maritime custom and practice, the discharge of flares of the color and type [...] are understood to convey that a vessel or its crew is in distress or in need of assistance,” the complaint said.
“At least one of the two knew at the time that the flares were a maritime distress signal, and both understood that it was improper to use them as they did,” said a statement from the Rhode Island district of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
It is a federal infraction to falsely discharge a distress signal and summon rescue services when no help is necessary.
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Original Author: Virginia Aabram