$70K reward offered in search for missing boaters

Companies hope they encourage people to search for 2 firefighters lost at sea

By Zachery Lashway - Reporter/anchor, Corley Peel - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Four rewards totalling $70,000 rewards are now being offered in the search for two missing firefighters lost at sea.

The latest $10,000 reward comes from a business that has a close relationship with JFRD firefighter Brian McCluney's family.

On Thursday, Fire Station 31, where McCluney was stationed, also offered a $10,000 reward.

Late Wednesday, International Marine announced it was also offering a $10,000 reward to any pilot or boat that locates either or both of the missing firefighters. On Friday, News4Jax learned that had increased to $30,000 as one of its customers and an anonymous person with close ties to McCluney's family made donations to the fund.

"This hits especially close to home as one of our Pro Staff is on the same shift and department as one of the missing firefighters," Brian Koch wrote announcing the reward.

Michel Reimer, the owner of International Marine out of Boyton Beach, Florida, is a retired firefighter in South Florida with 30 years of experience. 

"I have a lot of friends in the business and these guys are both firefighters and I have friends who work in Fairfax and Jacksonville.  So we got involved early on by organizing search teams with private parties," Reimer said.

Reimer said the bond between firefighters runs deep. He said his company also has another connection to the search. 

"One of the guys who drove down from Fairfax, he is on the same shift as the gentleman. We kind of helped him logistically getting on the water. He drove down with a team from Fairfax that is on the same shift with one of the gentleman missing," Reimer said.

Reimer said International Marine has had 100 boats aiding in the search.  

"We are at a crunch time. So we have to go ahead and get bodies and eyes on the water. The more people, the better, which enhances the survivor ability of these guys. We got together and ponied up a $10,000 reward for anybody (who) brings these guys home. We worked a deal out with one of our larger safety manufacturers … will donate all proceeds when anybody is buying safety equipment. We are donating it all to that same fund.  We are buying fuel for people to go out on planes and boats," he said.

Reimer added that International Marine will remain vigilant in the search.   

"The search is going to continue privately. Hopefully, the family stays strong, as they have. They have been demonstrating incredible strength and, hopefully, they continue that," he said. "Nobody is giving up, and this is just a little bump in the road and we are going to continue until they come home."

On Thursday, Palm Valley Outdoors Bar and Grill in Ponte Vedra Beach also offered a $10,000 reward.

"We want to get the word out, as a community. We still need to come together and continue searching," owner Toni Kara said.

The fire $10,000 reward was offered by 1-800-BOARDUP, which is headquartered in Jacksonville Beach. They said they hope its reward would also encourage people to assist in the search for McCluney and Walker.

According to the company, the reward will go to whoever finds one or both men. 

Michael Hosto, with 1-800-BOARDUP, told News4Jax earlier Wednesday that he tried searching the beach himself, but felt he needed to do more. By implementing the reward, he said, he hopes more people who have the capability to search the water will volunteer.

"I would ride my bike on the beach every morning trying to contribute in some way, but I felt relatively helpless and thought that a $10,000 reward might help create awareness up and down the coast and Georgia and the Carolinas to our firefighter from Jacksonville," Hosto said.

The rewards are not through JFRD. Anyone wishing to donate to rescue efforts is asked to do so at JFRD.com and anyone who finds the missing men should call 911.

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