They Fired Flares at Wedding, Triggered a $104K Search

Rhode Island men have been fined $5K each
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 6, 2021 2:31 PM CDT
Men Fined $10K for Firing Flares to Celebrate Wedding
Evidence in DoJ documents included images from video the men shared on social media.   (Department of Justice)

Two Rhode Island men have been fined $5,000 each for setting off flares near a friend's wedding reception last year—which isn't enough to cover the cost of the Coast Guard search operation that ensued. A Department of Justice release states that a search carried out after residents reported seeing red distress flares cost nearly $104,000. Local authorities and the Coast Guard participated in an hours-long search of waters off Block Island and the shoreline, the Washington Post reports. According to court documents, Perry Phillips and Benjamin Foster discharged the flares from a skiff as they approached the wedding reception at around 9:30pm on June 6 last year. According to court records, they fired three flares from a flare gun they had borrowed from a friend.

The distress signal was reported to the New Shoreham harbormaster, who contacted police and the Coast Guard. Authorities, who initially sought to recover the full cost of the search, say Phillips, 31, and Foster, 33, should have known better. At least one of the defendants, "by virtue of prior training and experience, knew that the flares were a sign or signal of maritime distress and should not be used absent such distress," and "both understood that it was improper to use them as they did," the DOJ says. The "needless and expensive" search involved a Coast Guard boat and two Coast Guard helicopters, authorities say.

Court documents state that Phillips and Foster, unaware that their actions had led to a search operation, posted video of themselves firing the flares on social media, reports the Providence Journal. A settlement agreement released Tuesday states that a civil complaint against the men will be dismissed when they have paid $5,000 each. The agreement states they have provided "sworn statements and documentation" that they lack the financial means to pay the costs of the search operation. (More Coast Guard stories.)

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