Coast Guard searches for Jacksonville and Virginia firefighters missing at sea

2 men fishing from Port Canaveral on last outing before selling boat

By Jason Mealey - Producer/assignment editor, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor, Maggie Lorenz - Multi-media journalist

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. - The Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies are searching for two boaters who haven't returned from a fishing trip off Port Canaveral.

The boaters, identified as Brian McCluney, a firefighter and paramedic with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, and Justin Walker, a firefighter from Virginia, were last seen Friday morning leaving the Christopher Columbus boat ramp Friday in a 24-foot center console boat.

When they hadn't returned or contacted anyone by 8 p.m., McCluney's brother called the Coast Guard.

"They're usually in by dark," said Stephanie McCluney, Brian McCluney's wife. "Six o'clock is (the) time they're usually in port. We give extra time. If fishing is good, they stay out longer. We didn't hear from them, couldn't get ahold of them by cellphones."

Brian McCluneyShe said the family is not too worried, both because she knows her husband (pictured, left) and the friend he met when they were both in the fire academy have great boating skills and are very resourceful.

"I really am confident it's mechanical failure. They're out there drifting. That's my belief now," Stephanie McCluney said. "Coast Guard said they haven't seen any debris fields. (They're) just waiting for someone to come find them."

Brian McCluney's brother, Kevin, agrees that they are very capable boaters but added this outing was special.

"The boat was my father's, who passed away last month, so the plan was to sell the boat," Kevin McCluney said. "But he wanted to run it one last time to get some fishing done as a sendoff for my dad."

Brian McCluney is a Navy veteran and has been married for 15 years. He and Stephanie McCluney have two children, ages 6 and 8.

Crews so far have searched about 4,400 square miles.

"Having grown up on the water with my family and my husband's family, we know these things happen," Stephanie McCluney said. "It's not the first time the Coast Guard's been called or Sea Tow has been called."

Stephanie McCluney said she is impressed by the efforts of both the Coast Guard and JFRD.

"They'll continue to search until dusk, then reassess. We have so many family and friends out in boats. We're active in the fishing community," Stephanie McCluney said.

Stephanie McCluney said the two men know each other from fire school in South Florida.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Navy and the Brevard County Sheriff's Office are helping with the search.

At about 8 p.m. Saturday, the 7th District U.S. Coast Guard tweeted that the search will continue throughout the night.

Anyone with information about the boaters is asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Command Center at 904-714-7558.

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