Search ramps up for firefighters missing off Florida coast

Coast Guard, local volunteers search coastline

By Web Staff
Family photos via CNN

Brian McCluney and Justin Walker were last seen the morning of Aug. 16 on surveillance video launching their boat into the water at the 300 Christopher Columbus boat ramp in Port Canaveral, according to the Coast Guard.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Florida fire official says his department is ramping up its search for two firefighters who've been missing since going boating in the Atlantic Ocean last week.

Jacksonville Interim Fire Chief Keith Powers said the agency needs as "many boats as we can get" to assemble Tuesday morning as the search for Brian McCluney and Justin Walker continues. The men set out in their 24-foot boat from Port Canaveral last Friday.

The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies have been searching a wide area of ocean between Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville. On Monday, a searcher found McCluney's fishing tackle bag some 50 miles off St. Augustine.

McCluney works for the Jacksonville department while Walker is a master technician for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia.

Authorities said they have searched thousands square miles of ocean for the two firefighters who disappeared after setting out from Port Canaveral on a fishing trip.

Brian McCluney and Justin Walker were last seen leaving the 300 Christopher Columbus Boat Ramp on Friday around 11 a.m.

Officials said the pair were believed to have gone offshore around 30 miles and were expected to return around 6 p.m.

They were boating toward a fishing spot known as 8A reef. The Jacksonville Fire Department said 50 of its firefighters are assisting on 11 boats.

The Coast Guard said an aircraft reported seeing a boat matching the one the pair was in around 50 miles east of Jacksonville on Sunday.

According to officials, a search plane spotted a cooler and life jackets. Multiple crews have been dispatched to search that area.

The Coast Guard said when they arrived to the search area, the debris found was not related to the boaters.

Following the discovery of McCluney's tackle bag by a Good Samaritan, the Coast Guard said it will be focusing on the area where that bag was found.

The men were on a boat that belonged to McCluney's late father, who passed away last month.

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

The Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters set up a donation website Sunday for people to help with a search that has extended from Port Canaveral to north of Jacksonville and 80 miles off shore.

Stephanie McCluney, the wife of Brian McCluney, said she is keeping faith the two men will be OK.

"We have great faith and hope that they are floating on the boat just waiting for someone to find them," McCluney said.

"There is an army out there looking so I am confident. Very, very confident," she said.

The men's family's said they are confident the men know what to do to survive.

"Brian is survival trained through the military, Navy. I know Justin is probably one of the most resourceful men I've also ever met. If there were ever two men that you would want to be stuck anywhere with, it'd be these two," McCluney said.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.