Rescue services responding to an emergency beacon yesterday later found the ‘stricken vessel’ docked in the harbour.
Rescue services responding to an emergency beacon yesterday later found the ‘stricken vessel’ docked in the harbour. ROB WRIGHT

Beacon sparks false alarm

IT was a bizarre emergency ... that wasn’t.

Two helicopters and water police were scrambled to a location almost nine nautical miles off Coffs Harbour yesterday in response to an Australian Maritime Safety Authority call that an Aussar emergency beacon belonging to a Sydney registered vessel had activated at sea.

The only thing was, Serenity III was safely moored at the Coffs marina all the time.

It turns out the owner of the vessel had discarded the ‘eperb’ that had somehow drifted out to sea and activated.

“The beacon was registered in the United States so it triggered an alert with the US Coast Guard,” said Sergeant Don Stewart from Coffs Harbour Water Police.

In the end, the whole exercise became a dramatic training mission.

“Somehow the beacon has gone from a rubbish bin out to sea,” Senior Constable John Wicken said.

“Being an older model beacon with limited battery life, it was activated for an hour before turning itself off.”

The Lismore-based Westpac Life Saver Helicopter and Precision Helicopter’s jet ranger conducted aerial patrols off the coast, as the water police vessel steamed through rough three-metre seas.

It was at the height of the drama that Coffs Harbour International Marina staff confirmed the Serenity III was safely moored in the inner harbour.

Water police urged anyone disposing of an eperb or emergency beacon to take it to Marine Rescue.



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