A helicopter was dispatched at 6:45 a.m. today to search the waters near the Tiburon peninsula after the Coast Guard received what sounded like a distress call Monday night.
The cryptic call came in over a marine radio channel at about 9:15 p.m.
“There was a female saying ‘Listen to me, listen to me,” followed by a pause, then ‘hello,’ another pause, and ’10-4, I have mayday,” Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Donald Newton said.
The Coast Guard was able to approximate the woman’s location and sent two vessels to search the Bay east of the peninsula. They scoured the water from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Angel Island but the search came up empty, Newton said.
At first light today, the Coast Guard sent a helicopter from San Francisco International Airport to scan the Bay again, Petty Officer Pamela Manns said.
The Coast Guard chose to do an aerial search this morning instead of sending boats because the tide and currents created a drift pattern overnight that would have moved the possible distressed boater from her original location, Manns said.
The helicopter allowed them to search a broader area more easily, Manns said. The search was suspended at about 8 a.m.
“The fact is, there is no evidence that there is a (boater in) distress,” Manns said.
She said any evidence that indicates there was actually a person in distress – even something as small as clothing floating in the water – could reinitiate the search.
“Anytime someone hails mayday over our channel 16, that’s the same as calling 911 and saying you’re having emergency,” Manns said. “We always treat that as an emergency, we always respond, we always go out and search.”
Newton stressed that it is important for troubled boaters to “include their position and the nature of the distress in the initial broadcast” so the Coast Guard can better assist their mayday call.
12:46 AM: A U.S. Coast Guard search for a woman who placed a distress call Monday night from the waters off the coast of Tiburon will resume at dawn, the Coast Guard said.
Minutes before 10 p.m., Coast Guard Chief Donald Newton said personnel heard the potentially distressed female over a marine radio channel.
“There was a female saying ‘Listen to me, listen to me,’ followed by a pause, then ‘hello,’ another pause, and ’10-4, I have mayday,'” Newton said.
Direction-finding equipment indicated the radio call originated from an area just east of the Tiburon peninsula, but multiple calls out to the region by the Coast Guard went unanswered, Newton said.
The Coast Guard dispatched an urgent marine information broadcast in the area “to put the word out if anyone has seen potential signs of distress,” he said.
“We’ve checked with tug and commercial traffic,” Newton said, but those calls have yet to provide clues to the caller’s identity.
Two Coast Guard vessels were dispatched to the area–a 25-foot San Francisco-based response boat and the 87-foot cutter “Tern” based out of Yerba Buena Island, which was diverted from its course on nearby waters.
Searches conducted Monday night off the Tiburon peninsula north to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and south to Angel Island have also failed to locate the caller.
Crews will take to the air and the sea when the search for the woman resumes at dawn, he said, and will scour an area larger than what was covered Monday night because tides and currents could have pulled the woman’s vessel farther from the shore.
“Our plan is to continue the urgent marine information broadcast throughout the night and conduct another first-light search in the morning with a helicopter,” Newton said.
When a mariner is in distress and places a mayday broadcast, Newton stressed they should “include their position and the nature of the distress in the initial broadcast” to expedite the Coast Guard’s response.
No other recreational vessels were found in the area where the broadcast appears to have originated, he said.
The search is expected to resume at about 6:45 a.m.