2 men will each pay a $5,000 fine after they launched flares to celebrate a friend’s wedding, triggering a $100,000 Coast Guard rescue effort

Screenshots from the social-media videos Perry Phillips and Benjamin Foster posted of the flares.
Screenshots from the social-media videos Perry Phillips and Benjamin Foster posted of the flares. Department of Justice
  • Last summer, two men in Rhode Island fired maritime distress flares to celebrate a friend’s wedding.
  • This launched a $US100,000 ($AU137,151) search-and-rescue effort that involved a boat and two helicopters.
  • The government sued, and the men have each agreed to pay a $US5,000 ($AU6,858) fine, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
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Two men who authorities say caused a “needless and expensive” ocean search-and-rescue effort when they fired maritime distress flares to celebrate a friend’s wedding have agreed to each pay a $US5,000 ($AU6,858) fine, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The Coast Guard and the town of New Shoreham, Rhode Island, spent more than $US100,000 ($AU137,151) responding to the flares off Block Island on June 6, 2020. But there was no one in distress, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office in Providence.

Last summer, Perry Phillips, 31, and Benjamin Foster, 33, borrowed a flare gun and flare, set out on the water in a small skiff off Block Island, and fired three flares they thought could be seen by people at their friend’s wedding reception, prosecutors said.

People spotted the flares, which are used to signal a boat or crew in distress, and reported them to the New Shoreham harbormaster, who in turn alerted the Coast Guard.

Local authorities and the Coast Guard launched an hours-long search, according to The Washington Post’s Andrea Salcedo, and deployed a boat, two helicopters, personnel, and equipment.

Following the search, the federal government sued the pair.

According to the civil complaint filed in the US District Court of Rhode Island, Phillips and Foster “knowingly and willfully communicated a false distress message to the Coast Guard” and “caused the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help was needed.”

On Monday, the men reached an agreement with the federal government. Foster and Phillips each agreed to pay $US5,000 ($AU6,858) each to settle the case.