Missing firefighters' loved ones continue push for search teams

Asking boaters, beachgoers to look for clues 11 days after disappearance

It's been a week and a half since two firefighters were last seen and now loved ones are asking people along the beaches to keep an eye out.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s been a week and a half since two firefighters were last seen and now loved ones are asking people along the beaches to keep an eye out.

They’re hoping someone will spot items that could provide some answers about what happened to the fishermen lost at sea.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighter and engineer Brian McCluney and Fairfax County, Virginia, firefighter Justin Walker launched their 24-foot fishing boat and headed off the coast of Port Canaveral Aug. 16. 

Despite a dozen agencies searching and hundreds of volunteers in boats, planes and helicopters, there’s been no sign of the mariners besides a tackle bag found off the coast of St. Augustine.

Now, loved ones are making a renewed push for people to stay on the lookout.

It could be something as simple as a life jacket, a fishing rod or a cooler, family members said. That could be a clue to reignite the search and possible bring the hurting families answers.

“My hope lies in that I know there will be a reunion whether it is here or in eternity,” Brian McCluney’s wife, Stephanie, said at a news conference Monday.

UNCUT: Watch entire McCluney family news conference |
GALLERY: Family photos of Brian McCluney, Justin Walker

The wives of the firefighters continue to post on Facebook, as well. Walker’s wife, Natasha, asked Tuesday for private boats and planes to search where they hadn’t checked yet.

If there is anybody that knows of more planes and more or boats that can help search areas we haven't and would like to, I am able to get them what they need.

Posted by Natasha Walker on Monday, August 26, 2019

McCluney’s wife shared lyrics to a song after taking their two children, ages 6 and 8, to school.

As we pulled out of our neighborhood and headed to school this morning this song played. The kids in the back seat were...

Posted by Stephanie Young McCluney on Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Friends joined in, calling for people to look for debris up and down the coast, from Florida to Virginia.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t see anything,” said Scott Anderson, president of Logan Diving and Salvage.

Anderson and some of his team members searched for the missing boaters 100 miles northeast of Mayport.

“I think those guys were well-equipped to survive if the boat didn’t sink,” Anderson said. “(If the boat did sink), it could be either way (floating or on the bottom). Typically, that boat, we would expect it to turn turtle and float.”

He said a number of things could have gone wrong offshore, but didn’t to speculate on why the men didn’t return home.

If the boat got into the Gulf Stream, he said, it could have moved north at 100 miles a day. By now, clues could be anywhere.

He was surprised that debris or the fishermen’s belongings, besides the tackle bag, weren’t found in such a massive and thorough search.

“Certainly there should have been some items on it, but it was a small boat and they probably didn’t have a whole lot more than some life jackets and tackle and cooler and drinks," Anderson said. 

It has been a difficult journey that family and friends hope will end with answers.

“Right now I just think we are trying to rest a little and let our minds and emotions rest,” McCluney’s mother, Carla McCluney said.

Anderson said it’s important that boaters, both recreation and commercial, all across the Eastern Seaboard know about the missing firefighters so they can keep an eye out. He said, sometimes, vessels and debris can be found years later. 

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.

Yesterday, August 26th, We closed one account and opened two different accounts to help out the families of JFRD...

Posted by The Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters on Tuesday, August 27, 2019

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.