Life vest found, but it didn't belong to missing boaters
Officials debunk online rumors that firefighters were possibly found
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As online rumors about two missing boaters swirled Wednesday, officials made it clear that the two firefighters have not been located.
Brian McCluney, who works for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, and Justin Walker, a firefighter from Fairfax, Virginia, were last seen when they left from Port Canaveral for a fishing trip Friday morning. The search began that night.
Since then, the only sign of the boaters was a tackle bag found Monday about 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun addressed online gossip that the boaters had been found head-on, letting the public know that wasn't the case. He said chatter got posted to social media about an unrelated incident and that caused confusion.
"The reality is, that's the world we live in, and we constantly scour to see what's out there and what other clues may be there. When we do see things about debris, we make sure that we've correlated that back through our resources...," Vlaun said.
He noted that a life preserver was found but it didn't belong to McCluney or Walker.
Crews searched 5,000 square miles Wednesday and didn't find anything connected to the boaters.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Powers said crews are racing against the clock, especially considering that no new clues have been found.
"Tomorrow, we're in some critical times right now. As we said at noon, time has really become our enemy and we're really having to, to move forward with this something's gotta happen," Powers said.
Beginning Thursday, the search efforts will move north, concentrating on an area off the coasts of South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.
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"We have plans already for our first flight search tomorrow morning at which time, as we've been doing, we'll meet together with all the partners in the search to determine a way ahead and whether or not we have an opportunity to be successful," Vlaun said.
The Coast Guard shared a map of the latest search efforts.
#UPDATE 17: @USCG crews will be searching through the night for the overdue @PortCanaveral boaters. The search has covered 90,306 sq miles with an est 249 hrs of active searches. Image shows today’s searches. pic.twitter.com/Ep5LCnRVwu— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) August 22, 2019
Officials echoed their call for volunteers and online donations to aid in the search. Anyone with information about the boaters or who can help in the search is asked to call the Coast Guard at 904-714-7565.
As the search continues through the night, Vlaun said they're looking for anything to bring hope.
"We're all struggling. We're all hoping to find something that would give us, that would spark an ability to contract a search," he said.
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