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Brunswick, Savannah boat owners needed in search for missing firefighters

Boaters last seen leaving Cape Canaveral, search following Gulf Stream north

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The search for two firefighters who went missing four days ago after departing Cape Canaveral on a fishing trip will continue to shift north Wednesday and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue is calling on boat owners in the southeast coast of Georgia to assist in the search efforts.

Brian McCluney, 38, a Jacksonville firefighter, and Justin Walker, 33, a Fairfax County, Virginia, firefighter, were last seen Friday while leaving Port Canaveral on a fishing trip in a 24-foot center console boat.

The U.S. Coast Guard and volunteers covered more than 46,000 square miles Monday, from off the coast of Central Florida to the Carolinas, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun said the Coast Guard covered 12,600 square miles of ocean from Jacksonville north to Savannah. Customs and Board Patrol and Navy aircraft and three cutters were also assisting in the search.

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"We cannot express the gratitude from the bottom of our hearts that these agencies have given," said Stephanie McCluney, Brian's wife.

She was joined by her family and Walker's family at a prayer vigil in Jacksonville on Tuesday night.

It was organized by the Jacksonville fire union, and it was attended by McCluney's coworkers from Jacksonville and Walker's fire department coworkers from Fairfax.

"We've got to get one eye to see (them). All it takes is one eye, but it takes a multitude out there, and it’s a big space," McCluney said.  

How to help

Jacksonville Chief Keith Powers said they are looking for volunteers with boats in the Brunswick and Savannah, Georgia, areas to help search for McCluney and Walker.

Anyone with a boat that can operate 60 miles out is asked to call Jacksonville Fire Rescue Chief Trace Barrow at 904-813-5315. Please have your name, number and boat size ready.

"We’re going again tomorrow, strong, and are going to need volunteers," Powers said Tuesday afternoon.

The cost of the massive search effort is extremely high, Powers said. Anyone who can donate is asked to help by donating at JFRD.com. Nearly 200 people were out looking for the missing friends Tuesday.

Updates on search efforts

On Monday, a volunteer found a tackle bag about 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine belonging to one of the missing boaters, which provided critical clues in the search. The Coast Guard was able to shrink its search zone down to a 13,000 square mile search.

"That allowed us to completely reroute our plans overnight," Vlaun said. "I can’t even put a value on that."

However, Vlaun said the Gulf Stream current could be pushing clues further north.

"The next 24 hours are critical," Vlaun said. "We are absolutely in a race against time."

Search crews will be out Tuesday into Wednesday morning and volunteers will start anew at 7 a.m.


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