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Effort to Save Shipwrecked Finds a Faker

February 28, 1986|KEITH A. OWENS | Times Staff Writer

A dramatic radio account of an imaginary collision at sea--which sent the Mission Bay Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard rushing into action--has landed an El Cajon man in jail.

Robert Kip McComb, 21, was arrested late Wednesday night aboard a boat in Mission Bay, two frustrating hours after the Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard sought in a dense fog to locate the victims of a collision that never happened.

The Harbor Patrol, six lifeguards, a Coast Guard helicopter, a fire engine and a paramedic unit were all pressed into action after the broadcast told of a collision off the entrance to Mission Bay and of hapless victims adrift at sea, Harbor Patrol Sgt. Charles Wright said.

McComb reportedly made up the account of the collision as the result of a bet with a friend. He began the broadcast about 8:40 p.m. over the radio of a 16-foot fishing boat, Wright said.

The story began with an account of a two-boat collision in the fog off Ocean Beach and later grew to include the heroic rescue of 11 survivors by an Australian freighter called the "Peanut."

Wright said the Coast Guard and Harbor Patrol became suspicious about 10 p.m. because the account began to include "every type of marine emergency imaginable."

"First there was a boating accident, then a boat went aground, then it was taking on water, then it was catching on fire," Wright said.

The Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard used radio direction-finding equipment to zero in on the boat McComb was aboard.

McComb is being held in County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail on suspicion of issuing a false distress call and violation of regulations covering use of an emergency radio frequency.

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