"Suspicious" Distress Call Sends Divers Into Frigid York River

Multiple emergency resources were dispatched late last week after a report of people overboard in the York River, but a thorough search indicated that it was all likely a hoax.

According to the York County Department of Fire and Life Safety, the department and the York County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report late Friday evening of an overturned vessel with people in the river near the Coleman Bridge. Also responding were the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Abingdon (Gloucester) Volunteer Fire/Rescue.

The department notes that a call similar to the one received by York County 911 was made to the U.S. Coast Guard, which deployed both a vessel and helicopter in response.

“A complete coordinated search of the river in the reported area along with the associated shoreline resulted in nothing found,” reports the department. The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office investigated the call and deemed it “suspicious.”

Shelley Ward of the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office says the office receives an average of three to four hoax calls each year.

Such calls are typically quite perilous and tie up a great number of resources, Ward says. “We’re having to send in a SWAT team to some of these calls. In this instance, we were dealing with very cold water, and we were sending divers into very cold water looking for something that wasn’t there. It’s very, very dangerous.”

The call is still under investigation. The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office is asking for anyone with information about the calls or the investigation to contact them.

Laura Adams Boycourt