Man Punished for False Distress Call That Launched Search

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SANDUSKY, Ohio– A man was sentenced to three months in federal custody and he must pay $489,007 in restitution after authorities said he made a false distress call that caused a massive search on Lake Erie.

Danik Shiv Kumar, 21, of Sandusky, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of making a false distress call.

Authorities said on March 14, 2012, Kumar took off in a single-engine plane on a solo flight from Burke Lakefront Airport to Bowling Green State University.

According to court documents, during the flight, he called the Cleveland Hopkins Airport control tower and reported seeing a vessel launching up flares.

Kumar went on to say it was, “a 25-foot fishing vessel, I guess you could say. Everyone had a life jacket with a strobe light. I counted four of them.”

The Coast Guard dispatched two vessels; they searched for 21 hours, while boat crews from the Coast Guard station in Lorain searched for 16 hours.

Rescue helicopter crews from the Coast Guard air station in Detroit joined in the search; so did a Canadian Coast Guard airplane crew from Ontario.

Authorities said more than a month later, Kumar admitted he lied.

He was also sentenced to 250 hours of community service and three years of supervised release.

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