VHF signal may have originated from Whitley Bay

A mayday call received from a vessel calling itself the Donald Sara Lee on VHF Channel 16 on Sunday night was a hoax, according to the Coastguard.

The vessel reported that it had hit rocks and was taking on water with three people on board. The caller gave its position as Trow Rock near South Shields Pier. The caller reported that the crew had lifejackets on, then communications were lost.

Rescue boats, aircraft and two commercial vessels searched the area between Sunderland to the south and Blyth in the north. Coastguard units on shore from Tynemouth, South Shields and Blyth were also involved.

The Coastguard managed to get a bearing on the call, suggesting it had originated at Curry Point near St Mary’s Island, Whitley Bay. The search also covered this area.

After two hours, covering up to ten nautical miles offshore with no positive result, the search was called off. The call was established as a hoax.

Coastguard Watch Manager Tony Tuton said:

This is not the first hoax call we have had from this area in recent weeks. Hoax calls take up valuable Coastguard time and could also deflect search and rescue resources from genuine incidents.