Search for missing firefighters continues

People step in to find two missing firefighters


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Search efforts for two missing firefighters who disappeared off the coast during a fishing trip in Cape Canaveral have been suspended for the night. but searchers will be back at it Monday.

It's been more than 48 hours since anyone had contact with the firefighters, but now the goal is to bring them back home.

The chief tells News4Jax they're now working with the Coast Guard to determine where they'll start searching Monday.

After putting in long hours in a desperate search, Holly O'Neal and her fire crew wrapped up a long day on the boat, and they're disappointed they came up short. 

"It’s heartbreaking, it really is. There are several families that are involved in this. Our heart goes out for them, of course. We wanted to find some answers," said O'Neal. 

A co-worker she's never met, firefighter Brian McCluney and his friend, Virginia firefighter Justin Walker, both skilled boaters, disappeared Friday in Cape Canaveral.

The interim fire chief says all contact was lost about 13 miles off the coast.

Like dozens of O'Neal's fire brothers and sisters, she answered the call to help search.

"It just kind of moved me. I got out of my bed and I’m like, 'I need to go look,'" said O'Neal. 

O'Neal rounded up a crew and tread waters 120 miles from Vilano Beach to Ponce Inlet and back. 

"It wasn’t the prettiest weather on the way down. We got beat up a little bit. Got some rain and some storms," said O'Neal. 

More than 50 people searched with more than a dozen boats and a few planes, but the chief hopes the firefighters' own skills also kicked in.

"He’s got the skill set to survive out there and do what it takes for a happy ending in this," said Keith Powers.   

Most are optimistic.

"We’re hopeful, and we’ll stay that way until we have reason to believe otherwise," said O'Neal.

The chief says the search will start again at 7 a.m. at the Mayport public boat ramp.