Coast Guard Suspends Search for Missing Firefighters

Photo via Jacksonville Fire and Rescue

The Coast Guard suspended its search Thursday for missing firefighters Justin Walker of Fairfax County and Brian McCluney of  Jacksonville, Fla. After searching more than 146,368 square miles, an area equivalent to the size of Montana for over 281 hours, officials were unable to locate the boaters who were reported overdue Friday evening.

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“Our Coast Guard men and women worked tirelessly alongside federal, state, and local partner agencies as well as countless volunteers searching for Brian and Justin,” said Capt. Mark Vlaun, Commander, Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville. “Despite those efforts, we have been unable to locate any signs of the vessel or the missing boaters. Suspending a search is never an easy decision, and a lot of factors are considered and calculated before we make that decision. We have been in regular contact with the family members throughout our search and extend our heartfelt condolences for what we know is a very difficult time for them.”

The search has been grueling not only for Coast Guard and volunteer searchers but also for the families of the missing men, as illustrated in this report from FirstCoastNews.com.

Last seen a week ago

Walker, a master technician for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, and McCluney, a firefighter for the city of Jacksonville, Fla., were last seen about 11 a.m. Friday, when they departed on a fishing expedition.

Hopes were raised earlier this week when a gear bag belonging to McCluney was found about 50 nautical miles off the coast of St. Augustine, Fla., but no other debris was found and hopes gradually faded.

There has been no indication of what may have happened to the sportsmen, who were said to be experienced boaters. No distress calls were received and, other than a band of thunderstorms that swept through the search area the afternoon of August 16, the weather was relatively calm.

Many volunteers were involved in the search over the last week and said that, despite the Coast Guard decision to suspend the search, they would continue their efforts.

According to the Coast Guard, agencies involved in the search were:

Coast Guard Sector Charleston
Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater
Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City
Coast Guard Air Station Savannah
Coast Guard Air Station Miami
Coast Guard Cutter Confidence
Coast Guard Cutter William Flores
Coast Guard Cutter Ridley
Coast Guard Cutter Moray
Coast Guard Cutter Cormorant
Coast Guard Station Port Canaveral
Coast Guard Station Ponce De Leon
Coast Guard Station Mayport
Coast Guard Station Brunswick
Coast Guard Station Georgetown
Coast Guard Auxiliary
U.S. Navy
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Marshall Service
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department
Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office
Brevard County Sheriff’s Office
St. Augustine Fire and Rescue
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Civil Air Patrol

Anyone with information is asked to contact Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Command Center watchstanders at 904-714-7558.

 

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.