The U.S. Coast Guard and a number of other law enforcement agencies are in a "race against time" to find two missing firefighters — including one from Fairfax County, Virginia — as the search for the men stretches into a sixth day.
Firefighter Brian McCluney and Firefighter Justin Walker are still the subjects of a "spectacularly large search" up and down the Atlantic coast, a Coast Guard captain said in an update Wednesday afternoon.
The firefighters set off on a fishing trip off the Florida coast on Friday and never returned. Walker is a master technician with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. McCluney works for the Jacksonville department.
Rescuers are encountering a strong current and an ever-expanding search area, the Coast Guard captain said. He suggested that the search may be suspended if the men are not found soon.
"We continue to evaluate, as we move forward, as to whether there's still a likelihood of success with search efforts," he said.
Pls SHARE & help spread word about 2 overdue boaters near #PortCanaveral. One of missing boaters is a member of our #FCFRD family. Call @USCGSoutheast Command Center w/any info 904-714-7558. ATTN MEDIA: Inquiries should be directed to @USCG #HappeningNow https://t.co/5F5z49vhqR— Fairfax Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) August 17, 2019
The Coast Guard was set to re-evaluate Wednesday night.
Jacksonville Interim Fire Chief Keith Powers said Tuesday that the agency was calling for as "many boats" as could be mustered in the search for McCluney and Walker. The firefighters departed last Friday on their outing aboard a 24-foot vessel from Port Canaveral.
The Coast Guard and other agencies have been searching a wide expanse of ocean between Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville off Florida's east coast. On Monday, crews found McCluney's fishing tackle bag some 50 miles off St. Augustine, in north Florida.
McCluney's wife said Tuesday the discovery of her husband's tackle bag gave her hope that the men will be found. In a Facebook post, Stephanie McCluney said she believed the bag was thrown overboard by the men to help those who are searching for them.
McCluney said Tuesday that seeing the rescue effort gave her hope.
"It brings me such renewed strength to go down there and see the operation itself, to see what exactly they're doing and the manpower behind it. It's not manpower; it's God-power," she said.
Walker and McCluney were last seen leaving the 300 Christopher Columbus boat ramp in a 24-foot, center-console boat heading toward "8A" reef, according to the Coast Guard.
A surveillance photo shows them at the ramp Friday morning.
Family members contacted the Coast Guard when the men didn't return as expected Friday night.