Article Courtesy: wftv.com | By: Kelly Healey | Originally Published: 8/21/2019 | Please click here for original article.
The search continued Wednesday for two missing firefighters who were last seen on a boat near Port Canaveral.
The search stretches north from Jacksonville up the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Officials said the boaters, Justin Walker and Brian McCluney, were last seen departing the 300 Christopher Columbus boat ramp Friday in a 24-foot center console boat heading toward the 8A reef.
As the search continues into its sixth day, Mark Vlaun, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, said searchers are “in a race against time” as the search area grows exponentially every day that no new clues are found.
The last clue was a tackle bag belonging to one of the boaters found 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine on Monday afternoon.
Vlaun said the search is becoming “spectacularly large and complex.”
Jacksonville Fire Rescue Chief Keith Powers said more than 100 people in 40 boats were out surveying 5,000 square miles of ocean in search of the men Wednesday.
Family members and first responders gathered in Jacksonville for a private vigil for the boaters on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to get one eye to see. All it takes one eye, but it takes a multitude out there. That is a big space,” Brian McCluney’s wife, Stephanie McCluney, said.
Walker’s wife, Natasha Walker, boarded a private plane at the Titusville airport to help comb the Florida coastline by air as the search continues for her husband. ?
“They know that we want them to keep fighting,” she said before boarding the plane.
Crews also searched areas they have already covered.
“They may have been just a little bit further out at that time, you turned around, and then come back by, so, you just keep going,” William Hood with Jacksonville Fire Rescue said.
Officials said they need volunteers with boats capable of traveling 60 miles off shore in Georgia and in South Carolina to assist in the search effort. Anyone interested in helping is asked to visit jfrd.com.
Powers said the search continues to be a rescue mission.
“These guys have the skills to survive for a long time,” Powers said.
McCluney works for the Jacksonville department while Walker is a master technician with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia, just outside the nation’s capital.
The families of the missing boaters are asking people to continue to share photos of the men and the boat. They’re also asking volunteers to comb nearby beaches and search for anything that could have washed up on shore from the boat, such as extra life preservers.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Command Center at 904-714-7558.