Coast Guard life-saving radio system in Palmetto vandalized

PALMETTO — The Coast Guard is working with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the recent vandalism of communications equipment in Palmetto.

Coast Guard personnel on watch at Sector St. Petersburg observed a loss of primary power to the critical VHF distress communications site about 11 p.m. Sunday, which rendered the site inoperative.

Repair technicians found obvious indications of vandalism. Repair was delayed while local law enforcement authorities cleared the site to ensure it was safe to enter, the Coast Guard said in a press release.Repair technicians found additional damage to the emergency generator.

In the interim, the Coast Guard received a distress call over an adjacent communications tower that would normally have been received and relayed by the Palmetto high site. The vandalism degraded the Coast Guard’s VHF distress communications system and potentially compromised public safety, the Coast Guard said.

The Palmetto high site is a key component of the Coast Guard’s Rescue-21 VHF distress communications system.

Anyone with information regarding the vandalism of the Palmetto VHF high site is encouraged to contact the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at (941) 747-3011 or the Coast Guard Investigative Service at (786) 236-8391.