AN RNLI crew from Queensfery risked their lives in gale force winds on Monday to race to Cramond Island only to find out the rescue call was a malicious hoax.
Police are now involved and the RNLI is calling for the person responsible to be brought to justice and punished.
The local crew had to brave 50mph gales in the Forth after they received a call from the Coastguard to rescue four people trapped on Cramond Island, one of whom had a suspected broken leg.
They ploughed through the six foot waves to reach Cramond Island and in dangerous conditions managed to land two crew members, Derek Sutton and Ewan Thomas, on rocks on the east side of the island from where they scrambled ashore and began an extensive search of the island.
At the same time a Sea King helicopter from 177 HMS Gannet in Prestwick was also scrambled to aid in the search.
After a search of the island and all the buildings, the lifeboatmen found no-one. The helicopter also made numerous sweeps of the area and drew a blank.
With the search complete, the sea proved too dangerous for the rescuers to get back off the island and onto the lifeboat and were airlifted by the helicopter onto Cramond foreshore where the lifeboat was waiting to return them to Queensferry.
Richard Smith, RNLI media relations manager in Scotland, said: “The making of a hoax call is an extremely serious offence and anyone responsible should be brought to justice and punished. There is no excuse, no justification, for someone to make a false report about persons or vessels in distress.
“The majority of malicious calls state that someone is in trouble at sea and this will trigger off a rapid response from the RNLI, Air Sea Rescue and the Coastguard service at a cost which runs into thousands of pounds.”
Richard added: “Every time a malicious phone call is made to the emergency services it means that the RNLI has to alert the volunteers to form a crew. They spend what could be hours at sea in all weathers on a fruitless search.
‘‘The crime is made even worse by the fact that a lifeboat is engaged on hoax call and effectively out of action when a real life drama could be unfolding somewhere else in its area where another person could be in danger of losing their life.”
Police this week are continuing the search to trace the call made to the Coastguard.