Fundraisers held to aid private searches for missing firemen
Active search ended at sundown Thursday, but private ones continue
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's been more than a week since a one-day fishing trip turned into a nightmare for two boaters and their families.
Brian McCluney, a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department engineer, and Justin Walker, a Virginia firefighter, have not been found.
The Coast Guard suspended the active search at sundown Thursday, but some boaters have decided they will continue to search.
On Saturday, a fundraiser took place to help collect money for private searches that will continue until the two firemen are found.
"It's just great to see everything that, just seeing the turnout of the community that really don't know Brian and Justin, but that they've actually stepped out and stepped up to do this is just a great show of outpouring of community," said Ryan Hara, with JFRD.
Officials and volunteers began searching Aug. 17. Within days, McCluney's tackle bag was found roughly 50 miles off the shore of St. Augustine, a sign that led to more volunteers searching for the two men.
Though the active search has ended, people have come together to keep searching. They believe the men are still alive.
Thousands of dollars have been raised in a couple of days. Now, boaters who want to volunteer will have fuel and other supplies to take the daylong voyage out to sea.
They will not stop searching for the two men.
"We're still holding out faith that he's gonna be found, both of 'em," Hara said. "And we can't wait to see them come back home."
Firehouse Subs held a fundraiser Monday to help, as well. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 26, all Northeast Florida locations -- including Jacksonville, Fernandina, Gainesville, Ocala, St. Augustine, Lake City and Macclenny -- donated 10% of proceeds to the families of McCluney and Walker through the Northeast Florida Firemen Wives Foundation.
"I just think if it were my husband, this just hits really close to home for a lot of us here," Brenna Holechek said. "Especially the firefighter wives out there. This is such a close-knit family. There's nothing like the bond that firefighters have. It's just, it's special. And you know, I think, it's just special. I don't know. I can't explain what's going on, but it's just a really special thing."
On Monday, the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters closed one account and opened two different accounts to help out the families of McCluney and Walker. Anyone who would like to give can go to JFRD.com and donate to the families.
Berndt Ends BBQ is sponsoring a benefit from Thursday through Sunday and naming McCluney's favorite plate, "The McCluney Special." All Proceeds from each purchase of "The McCluney Special" will go to the families.
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