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Portland coastguard scramble after hoax phone call
RESCUE teams were scrambled after a hoax caller told them a person was drowning in Weymouth Harbour.
Coastguards have since warned people to stop wasting their time before it costs lives.
South West Ambulance alerted Portland Coastguard to the alleged incident at around 1.30pm on Wednesday.
The Weymouth RNLI Lifeboat was tasked alongside the harbour boat Melway and local vessel Meridian Express. It was later confirmed that the call was a hoax.
Mark Rodaway, manager of Portland Coastguard Rescue Coordination Centre, said dozens of hoax calls are made each year with the number on the rise.
He said: “There are three important messages that these callers need to consider.
“Firstly, there is a cost implication to scramble the helicopter or teams and that cost is to the taxpayer.
“In a time of austerity it is a really unnecessary expense.
“More importantly, if all of our resources are attending a hoax call in Weymouth Harbour and a real call comes in from Portland, somebody could die.”
He added: “If that happened the person making that call has to live with what they have done. It is morally and legally wrong. Dozens of these calls are made each year and that number is on the rise with callers becoming more sophisticated.”
Anyone who makes a hoax call could face a prison sentence.
Mr Rodaway said: “We do trace calls and legal action has been taken on a number of occasions.
“If we find out about a hoax caller we call the police straight away.
“They think it is funny but is it definitely not – it could cost lives.”
Ken Francis, a volunteer press officer for Weymouth RNLI lifeboat station, said: “We would ask those people to not call 999 for no reason.
“As a team of volunteers it is a great inconvenience to people who dedicate their time to helping others.”
Man Dials 999 To Retrieve iPHONE
The warning comes days after a man rang 999 – because he had dropped his iPhone at the seaside.
The caller contacted Portland Coastguard on the emergency line after his phone slipped between rocks on a groyne on Sandbanks Beach. He expected assistance from the life-saving emergency service to retrieve it.
Watch assistant Steve George took the call just after 1.30pm on Sunday.
He said: “The call came in on the triple nine line so red lights flashed around the room and we were all braced and prepared for an emergency.
“The man gave his position and said he was on the beach with the groyne in front of him.
“I was waiting to hear if he had his arm or his leg stuck – but it turned out the iPhone had gone down in between the rocks and he required assistance to retrieve it.
“I politely informed him that we wouldn’t be able to help.”