WARNINGS have been issued about the dangers of misusing distress flares after Whitby’s lifeboat team responded to an apparent hoax on Monday evening.
A distress flare was spotted in the upper harbour, around the region of Whitehall Landing, and Humber Coastguard requested Whitby lifeboat’s assistance.
The inshore lifeboat OEM Stone III was launched at 8.25pm and undertook a search of the area, but found no one in danger.
It was the second time a flare had been launched in the harbour that day, as another one was fired at around 2pm, leading Whitby RNLI chief mechanic Glenn Goodberry to believe the incidents may have been due to misuse of the flares.
Mr Goodberry said the cost to the lifeboat institution could not only be counted in amount of public donations wasted by them responding to hoax calls, and added: “We will always investigate at the request of the coastguard. If we are dealing with something that’s possibly a hoax or people messing about, something else might be happening where we should be dealing with somebody that’s in difficulty and we may not be able to respond quickly enough.”
Assistant harbour master Richard Locke said people are putting themselves in danger if they misuse distress flares. He said: “Firstly, it’s extremely dangerous to use at close quarters. If you get hold of rocket flares they can cause serious injuries.” He highlighted the waste of resources for the RNLI and the coastguard, but said that it was down to boatowners to ensure their equipment was stored securely.
Out of date flares are also a serious problem as they are often not disposed of correctly. However, they can often be collected by the coastguard if an appointment is made, or they can be returned to the manufacturer for disposal.
The launch of the second flare was captured on the harbour’s CCTV system and an investigation is taking place to identify the people involved.