Rhode Island men fined after setting off distress flares at wedding

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Rhode Island men fined after setting off distress flares at wedding

Two Rhode Island men who set off distress flares to celebrate a friend’s wedding — sparking a $100,000 Coast Guard search effort — have been fined $10,000 between them, federal prosecutors said.

Perry Phillips, 31, and Benjamin Foster, 33, agreed on Tuesday to settle the civil case brought against them in the wake of the search-and-rescue effort off Block Island in June last year.

The two men had set off in a small skiff the night of June 6, 2020, and fired three red flares off the shoreline when they were in view of guests at their friend’s wedding reception.

They filmed themselves setting off the flares and posted videos on social media before returning to shore, according to the federal complaint.  

Coast Guard.
The flares sparked a $100,000 Coast Guard search effort.
US Coast Guard Station Point Judith

In the meantime, people who saw the flares believed someone needed help and alerted authorities.

The Coast Guard and local authorities spent hours scouring the water and shoreline near where the flares were set off, prosecutors said.

The combined cost of the search, which involved a surface vessel and two Coast Guard helicopters, was more than $100,000, according to the complaint.

Distress flare
The Coast Guard and local authorities spent hours scouring the water and shoreline near where the flares were set off.
Instagram
Flare.
Phillips and Foster were sued by the federal government for “knowingly and willfully communicated a false distress message to the Coast Guard.”
Instagram

Phillips and Foster were later sued by the federal government for “knowingly and willfully communicated a false distress message to the Coast Guard.”

They each agreed to pay a $5,000 statutory civil penalty to settle the case.

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