False Mayday x 51 = 30 Months in Prison
The question of whether or not to carry, let alone use, an emergency personal locator beacon can stir up some rousing discussions on Trailspace. Whether you're for or against having the devices in the backcountry, get ready to raise your eyebrows at this story.
Calif. man gets 30 months for false 'mayday' calls
53-year-old Kurtis Thorsted was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for broadcasting 51 hoax distress signals over six months in 2008. His actions cost the Coast Guard more than $102,000 for attempted searches, and in one instance delayed their response to a real emergency.
Thorsted plead guilty last July and was sentenced last week. In pleading guilty, he admitted to broadcasting “Mayday Mayday” and stating that he was in a kayak off the coast of Santa Cruz, Calif., and having difficulty getting back to shore when in fact he was not in a kayak or on the water, and was in no danger. He was actually at his Salinas home.
“This case represents superb cooperation between Coast Guard investigators and the U.S. Attorney’s office,” said Capt. Thomas Cullen, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector San Francisco in a 2009 press release. “Unfortunately, this type of criminal behavior occurs far too often. Since we presume that every call for help is both valid and time-critical, we immediately launch our boats and aircraft to search the probable area of the distress call. My biggest fear is that someone will die because we have rescue crews searching for a false distress when they are needed for a real emergency elsewhere.”
It's worth noting that Thorsted's public defender said in a memo that Thorsted is disabled from a traumatic brain injury. In 2004 he was sentenced to two years in prison for the same crime and fined.
For much more on how emergency response systems work, locator beacons, ethics, and NASA's new DASS system, read Bill S.'s article "NASA Develops New Emergency Response System."
Did you know you can cancel a false alarm?: www.sarsat.noaa.gov/false.html