The Mayday call was made at 14:45 by a person that stated they were on a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) called CQC and a member of their crew had suffered a diabetic episode. They further said that their propeller was caught up in fishing nets and that they were unable to return to safety. They gave their position as 7.5 miles east of St. Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay.
Tynemouth RNLI Severn class all weather lifeboat was paged and launched seven minutes later, making best speed to the reported location of the casualty vessel. Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 912 was also scrambled from its Humberside Airport base.
The lifeboat with six volunteer crew members arrived on scene 14 minutes after launching and found no trace of any vessel. Visibility was good and the sea state slight. Repeated attempts by UK Coastguard’s Humber Operations Centre and the lifeboat crew to contact the mayday caller were unsuccessful. None of the fishing vessels in the area had seen such a vessel or anything similar.
To ensure that there was no-one in danger or distress in the area a search pattern was set up to cover the area south from the reported position, taking into account the wind and tide direction that would carry a drifting vessel. The helicopter joined the search which progressed for over an hour before UK Coastguard was certain that if a vessel in distress had been in the area it would have been located.
Our lifeboat and the Coastguard helicopter were then stood down with the latter refuelling at Newcastle Airport before returning to base and the lifeboat refuelling at Royal Quays Marina before returning to station at 17:20.
The Mayday call is thought to have been a deliberate and malicious hoax.
Lifeboat: 17-20 Spirit of Northumberland.