2 men fined for setting off $100K Coast Guard search by firing distress flares to celebrate friend’s wedding

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Flare gun and spare shells are seen in this file image. (Getty Images)

Flare gun and spare shells are seen in this file image. (Getty Images)

Two Rhode Island men authorities say touched off a needless and expensive ocean search-and-rescue effort when they fired maritime distress flares to celebrate a friend’s wedding have agreed to pay $5,000 each to settle the case, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

The Coast Guard and the town of New Shoreham spent more than $100,000 combined responding to the flares off Block Island on June 6, 2020, when there was no one in distress, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Providence.

Perry Phillips, 31, and Benjamin Foster, 33, “knowingly and willfully communicated a false distress message to the Coast Guard,” according to the civil complaint, and “caused the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed.”

The men borrowed a flare gun and flares, set out on the water in a small skiff, and fired three flares when they thought they could be seen by people at their friend’s wedding reception, prosecutors said. They recorded their actions to post on social media, prosecutors said.

People who saw the flares reported them to the New Shoreham harbormaster, who in turn alerted the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard deployed a boat and two helicopters for the search.

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