The U.S. Coast Guard responded to a distress call Sunday that officers now suspect was a hoax.

Coast Guard Sector Portland received a mayday transmission at about 11 a.m. from a 19-foot vessel reporting it was filling with water near Kennewick, Wash., with three people on board.

An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Astoria headed to the scene, along with a small boat crew from the Aids to Navigation Team in Kennewick. Meanwhile, Sector Portland issued an urgent marine broadcast via radio to vessels in the area.

None of those efforts turned up any signs of a boat in distress.

False distress calls put rescuers at unnecessary risk and waste thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money, according to the Coast Guard. Operating one of the agency's 47-foot motor lifeboats costs an estimated $1,200 per hour, and using helicopters or large cutters costs as much as $9,000 to $12,000 an hour.

"False distress calls not only cost taxpayers money and place Coast Guard members at increased personal risk, but more importantly, they divert limited resources from mariners who are in actual distress," said Capt. Mark D'Andrea, chief of response for the Coast Guard's 13th District in Seattle.

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