Friends, family host vigil for missing boaters on 4th day of search

Brian McCluney, Justin Walker reported missing Friday night

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The families of two missing firefighters who were last seen Friday leaving Port Canaveral on a fishing trip will host a vigil Tuesday evening along with Jacksonville and Fairfax firefighters.

The prayer vigil will be held at 6 p.m. in Jacksonville at the end of the fourth day of the search for Brian McCluney, 38, and Justin Walker, 33. Local 122 will host the vigil on Phillis Street, followed by a dinner.

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

McCluney grew up in Cocoa and graduated from Merritt Island High School before joining the Navy, his mother, Carla McCluney, told Florida Today. 

The Brevard native also serves two tours of duty in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart when he was struck by a piece of shrapnel overseas, his mother said.

U.S. Coast Guard crews have searched nearly 60,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean for the pair in the last two days. After days of searching, a volunteer on Monday found McCluney's fishing gear about 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue and Coast Guard officials said the search is moving north and will continue through the night and into Wednesday.

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On Tuesday morning, Walker's wife, Natasha Walker, boarded a plane piloted by Joe Hurston, of Air Mobile Ministries, in Titusville to look for her husband and his friend. The pair have been flying up and down the Space Coast searching for the missing men, flight records show.

Although the boaters launched from Port Canaveral, the current could have pushed them north into the waters off Jacksonville's shores, so firefighters and others are combing the beaches of North Florida.

The search will continue to shift north Wednesda to Brunswick and Savannah, according to Coast Guard Sector Commander Capt. Mark Vlaun.

"At the end of the day we’re looking for Brian and Justin and we haven’t’ found them but we’re in a race against time," Vlaun said, adding, "The next 24 hours are critical."

Anyone with information about the boaters or who can help in the search is asked to call the Coast Guard at 904-714-7565.

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