After year, memorial to be held for firefighters who vanished at sea

Brian McCluney, Justin Walker haven't been found after going on fishing trip

Loved ones will gather Friday to remember two firefighters who never returned from a fishing trip one year ago.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Friday, loved ones will gather to remember two firefighters who went on a fishing trip one year ago and didn’t return.

Engineer Brian McCluney with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and his friend, Virginia firefighter Justin Walker, launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a 24-foot center console boat.

For six days, crews and volunteers searched by boat and air, covering more than 146,000 square miles from Florida’s coast to the Carolinas. Despite the massive effort, the only thing item found was McCluney’s tackle bag.

To this day, no one knows what happened to the men out at sea.

McCluney’s wife, Stephanie, said she’s grateful for the memories of her husband. She wants the memorial service to be a celebration of his life.

“This weekend will always be filled with heartache and grief that we’ll carry forward, but I really wanted a happy way to remember and honor Brian and Justin, and the ocean seems like the closest place we can get to them,” she said.

McCluney’s wife is planning a paddle out memorial for her husband at the same dock he Walker launched from.

Stephanie McCluney says her family and her children are resilient and still joyful, but they desperately miss their father. She says her strong faith and belief in God is helping her find her purpose behind the pain.

″I find such support in knowing that I lost this incredible pillar in my life. I have lost it, but people are coming to know Jesus and know God, relying on their faith, it doesn’t make it easier, but it provides a purpose behind it,” she said.

The memorial will begin at 5 p.m. Friday at Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral.

“What a great honor to a great guy. Just memorialize him and everybody remember what a great person he was,” Florida Association of Firefighters Randy Wyse said.

Wyse said Jacksonville firefighters miss McCluney every day.

“Something will occur and say, ‘Do you remember this call? Brian was there.’ So every once in a while, you hear that. Out of (Station) 31, where he was assigned, I’m sure it’s even more prevalent,” Wyse said.

Ahead of the memorial, Stephanie McCluney wrote to her husband on Facebook:

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Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.