Pair trying to skip on paying for kayak triggers search costing taxpayers tens of thousands

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - When a man and a woman rented two kayaks at Grumpy's Bait and Tackle at Lorain's public boat launch and didn't return by 10:30 on Tuesday night, Grumpy got worried, called the Coast Guard and the search began.

All night Coast Guard search boats, a helicopter and even a C-130 from the Royal Canadian Air Force looked for the pair. At dawn the kayaks were found on a trail not far away, neatly stacked. It seemed like the two just didn't want to pay for the rental.

Grumpy, whose name is Bob Fowler, was asked if they were just trying to get over on him.

"Well that's what it sounds like," Fowler said.

The stunt came at no small cost to the Coast Guard according to Petty Officer Chris Yaw.

"Any time we get a call over the radio, even if it is just a short little spurt of help we're sinking or whatever or any information that we have of someone in distress we treat it as if it's the actual thing."

Petty Officer Brian McCrum added "Operationally though our small response boats can be up to $4,500 an hour to operate. Helicopters involved in the search that's $16,000 to operate an hour."

False calls like that one are way up this year compared to last, put money aside and there is an even more serious concern according to McCrum.

"There is a human cost because there is a risk any time we go out on the water," McCrum said.

An interesting aside to the story is that is the boat launch where the kayaks launched from is only about 50 feet or so from where they were found.  Grumpy said they weren't here when he checked at about one in the morning;  Later in the morning there they were.  That adds to the theory that the intent was not to pay for the rental, and because of what it triggered that could be a crime.

"If you are intentionally trying to deceive the Coast Guard you face up to six years in prison.  $250,000 fine and $5000 civil penalty and also reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost of that search," McCrum said.

The search for whoever these two were is now in the hands of the Lorain Police Department.  Grumpy plans to ask for better ID in the future.

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