Fake Coast Guard Boat Raises Alert

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Fake Coast Guard Boat Raises Alert

By Gavin McCormick Associated Press Writer Friday, Nov. 2, 2001; 4:15 p.m. EST

CHARLESTON, W.Va. Several area chemical plants have been warned to take extra precautions after a boat masquerading as a Coast Guard vessel was spotted on the Kanawha River.

"They should do whatever is necessary to protect the facility if the boat approaches at high speed," said Lt. Renee Kern, chief of port operations for the Coast Guard's Huntington office.

"We left the decision entirely up to them whether to move vessels in the way, or to shoot, or to use a crane, or whatever," Kern said.

Coast Guard officials warned the area's five largest chemical and energy plants on Oct. 5 that the boat had been spotted near Charleston. Kern didn't identify the plants.

Of the more than 30 chemicals that federal authorities say have the potential for mass destruction when they are in large containers, 28 are manufactured in West Virginia.

The phony Coast Guard boat was spotted at least four times on the Kanawha River from Oct. 5 to Oct. 20, moving at high speeds or "lurking around power plants and chemical facilities," Kern said.

A state trooper saw the boat on a trailer on Oct. 18 but did not know then the boat was suspicious.

In an Oct. 11 letter sent to 48 area chemical and energy plants, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Steven Wischmann of Huntington described the rogue boat as a light gray 20-footer with "US COAST GUARD" written on the side and a bar of lights atop the cabin.

The boat had no Coast Guard number painted on its side and no Coast Guard flag.

A boat matching a similar description was seen in late September on the Ohio River near Cincinnati, said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Mehler, executive officer of the Coast Guard office in Louisville.

Officials at the Coast Guard's Atlantic Area command office in Portsmouth, Va., said a small number of sightings of phony Coast Guard vessels have been reported since Sept. 11. All reports other than the boat seen on the Kanawha and Ohio rivers proved to be unsubstantiated.

Kern declined to give an exact description of the boat's lone male occupant. She said he fit the description of a "Joe average American."

"We don't know if the boat meant to scope this area and then move on to the next, or if it was doing something else illegal," Kern said. "Maybe it was someone not taking their medicine who thought they would be doing the government a favor."

-- seeker (searching@low.and.high), November 02, 2001


Does anyone know if it is illegal to cruise around with "US COAST GUARD" painted on your boat?

Since they didn't arrest the guy, I guess it isn't. I would think it would at least be reason enough to search his boat and ask him some questions.

-- seeker (searching@low.and.high), November 02, 2001.

Wouldn't be any different than you painting State Police and your state insignia on the side of your big Ford. They would have you locked up quick.

-- Boswell (fundown@thefarm.net), November 02, 2001.

New followup story with possible link to previous boat reports...

A security guard is attacked at a nuclear power plant

By: Scott Saxton, WSAZ Charleston

PUTNAM CO., WV, Nov. 5 - With the world as it is now, an attack at a power plant gets even more attention. And it comes just days after the news leaked that the coast guard was already looking for a suspicious boat in our region. At this point, the coast guard is not sure whether the two things are connected. It could be a coincidence. But here's the good thing out of this whole mess: AEP says it was a test that security passed.

Putnam County Sheriff Stan Farley says, "Someone tried to come on the property." They came from the river side of the John Amos plant. A female security guard spotted one man and chased him. Then she says he turned and hit her. Farley says, "They were talking some type of foreign language. They got into the boat and took up the river." By the time police got there, only the ripples of the river remained. The men were long gone.

They're described as two dark skinned men, wearing dark clothing. Joe Haynes, with the John Amos Plant, says, "Our security reacted exactly the way we wanted them to." The Kanawha River is very close to the John Amos plant. AEP officials say from time to time people wander on to their property. Two months ago, they wouldn't have thought twice about this incident. Now they do.

September 11th changed that. A recent report from the Coast Guard adds to the concern. The guard says some boat is masquerading as a guard vessel in this region. Haynes says, "We're a little more sensitive to those kind of things, so we have to take that extra little bit of precaution when something like this happens." Joe Haynes says the already tight security at John Amos tightened even more after September 11th. Guards use mirrors to check under cars and trucks, just one precaution to keep much of the Valleys power supply pumping.

The guard who was involved in that scuffle, Patricia Parsons, is okay. She did go to the hospital, but she only had minor injuries. The Coast Guard is looking closer into this incident. They have the discretion with any water incident. They consider this a serious incident, so they're helping out. They can see if there are any connections to the bogus boat.

-- seeker (searching@low.and.high), November 06, 2001.

Do "tests" involve actual assault with intent to injure?

-- helen (test@anxiety.just.got.worse), November 06, 2001.

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