Coast Guard, JFRD suspends active search for missing firefighters lost at sea

The boaters never returned from a fishing trip

Aug. 22 Noon update: Officials to suspend active search at sundown

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — Action News Jax has the latest on the search for the missing firefighters from Jacksonville, Georgia and South Carolina, as well as the latest developments from officials -- watch on Action News Jax on CBS47

Update Aug 22 at 3:30: As soon as he heard that Brian McCluney and Justin Walker were missing after heading out into the Atlantic Ocean on a fishing trip, Joe Hurston, chaplain with Air Mobile Ministries, made some phone calls.

By chance, he reached Natasha Walker, Justin's wife, and joined the search.

Content Continues Below

"I've seen some real miracles and that's what we need right now we just need a miracle," Hurston said.

Update Aug. 22 at Noon: The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and the U.S. Coast Guard say they have made the painful decision to suspend the active search for missing firefighters Justin Walker and Brian McCluney who are lost at sea tonight at sundown. The search will continue, but, it will be scaled back. If new information comes forth, the Coast Guard says they will restart the search and rescue process and take appropriate action.

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters

Posted by Action News Jax on Thursday, August 22, 2019

Update Aug. 22 at 8 a.m.:  The wife and brother of missing firefighter Justin Walker are expected to board a plane to help in the search. At last check with the Coast Guard, their search has covered 90,306 square miles. The Coast Guard says there is no deadline on when the search will end.

Update Aug. 21 at 6:15 p.m.: Another organization has stepped up to offer another $10,000 in reward money. That brings the total reward money to $20,000. International Marine is offering up $10,000 and 1-800-BOARDUP is offering a $10,000 reward for any boater or pilot who finds the missing firefighters.

Update Aug. 21 at 6:15 p.m.: Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Powers said crews will continue to search for Justin Walker and Brian McCluney on Thursday, but the search will move north, focusing on the waters off the coast of South Carolina.

Chief Powers said that they will not be putting anyone out at the Jacksonville or Brunswick inlets. He said that the models are showing the search needs to be concentrated in the South Carolina area.

Chief Power said, "We are in some critical times right now. Time has really, as we said at noon, time has really become our enemy. And we're really having to move forward with this, somethings got to happen."

A life vest was found Wednesday. The Coast Guard spoke with the family and confirmed that the life vest was not connected to the missing firefighters.

There was also an active rescue case in Tybee Island today, but that was a completely separate case.

Captain Mark Vlaun of the U.S. Coast Guard said 17,000 square miles were searched on Wednesday. An aircraft will be going up Wednesday evening and 2 cutters will stay out on the water to search overnight.

Captain Vlaun said that, "by tomorrow morning, because that is a point where the search really does grow to be untenable, we're going to have to have a conversation about whether we can continue with an active search or weather we move into regular patrol activity."

Volunteers who want to assist in the search must have boats that can operate 60 miles offshore. Call JFRD Chief Barrow at (904) 813-5315 to coordinate.

Update Aug. 21 at 4:30p.m.: Posts on social media have surfaced in the last hour about the possibility of debris being found off the coast. A life jacket was found during the search today, but the Coast Guard told Action News Jax that it does not belong to them. The Coast Guard said it showed the recovered jacket to the wives of Justin Walker and Brian McCluney, they confirmed jacket was not on board.

Update Aug. 21 at 2:30p.m.: A $10,000 reward is being offered by 1-800-BOARDUP to any boater or pilot who finds the missing firefighters who did not return from a fishing trip off the Port of Canaveral Friday. Aug. 16. A post was made to Facebook by the founder of the company based in Jacksonville.

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters. LATEST:

Posted by Action News Jax on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Update Aug. 21 at 12 p.m.: JFRD held a news briefing regarding the search for missing firefighters Brian McCluney and Justin Walker. The Coast Guard says the Gulf Stream is currently working against them. Officials say they did not find anything Tuesday or overnight. They are checking several debris areas. The Coast Guard is setting up plans into the evening as they continue to search for the missing firefighters.


Update Aug. 21 at 10:30 a.m.: JFRD has about 30 boats out searching. Firefighters in Charleston are also volunteering to search.

Update Aug. 21 at 6 a.m.: There will be searches today in Georgia (Savannah and Brunswick) as operations move north. Today's search efforts are critical and the man power is still needed. Volunteers with boats are still welcomed to help in the search.

There is no designated launch location for anyone interested in volunteering out of Brunswick, but those in that area can call 904-816-5315 and will be given orders.

Update Aug. 20 at 5 p.m.: JFRD and the Coast Guard gave an update on the search for the missing firefighters.

JFRD said over 200 volunteers were out searching Tuesday, including 75 boats and 11 aircrafts.

The aircrafts covered 12,600 square miles today and two of the aircrafts are still up as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Anyone who wants to help can donate on These donations help put fuel in the search boats.

JFRD said the search will be shifting North a little, and they are asking anyone from the Brunswick or Savannah area, who wants to volunteer and has a boat capable of going out in the 60-mile range, to please contact Chief Chase Barrow at 904-813-5315.

The Coast Guard spokesperson said that after finding the tackle bag belonging to one of the missing firefighters yesterday, they were able to scale down their search to a more localized area.

They were able to apply the drift to that location to help create a search zone. The search zone was around 13,000 square miles that extended from the Jacksonville area to Savannah.  The Coast Guard said their search will continue through the night and into tomorrow.

The Coast Guard said their biggest challenge at the moment is the current.

The Coast Guard spokesperson said, "At the end of the day were looking for Brian and Justin, and we haven't found them. So, I mean, we are still holding out optimism, but we are, to be clear, on a race against time -- racing against a very powerful current that's going up the coast."

"The next few 24 hours are absolutely critical. I can't put it any clearer that we are on a race against time at this point," the spokesperson said.

He said that they are using some of the most sophisticated technology that he has ever had at his disposal, from the Navy P8's from NAS JAX, to Customs and Boarder Protection P3's and C130's, Coast Guard aircraft from four different locations and more.

He said that they are applying everything the federal government and state and local partners can provide.

LIVE: JFRD, Coast Guard briefing on firefighter search

LIVE: JFRD, Coast Guard give briefing on search for missing firefighters. LATEST UPDATE:

Posted by Action News Jax on Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Update Aug. 20 at 12 p.m.: JFRD says they will cover about 12,600 miles today in their search for two missing firefighters. There are 10 aircrafts surveying the area and several boats with the help of law enforcement, fire and rescue and civilians. Today's focus is reveiewing the area where a tackle bag was found on Monday. Officials say there is no timeline to the length of the search. Crews have found a number of debris and trash in the water, such as a styrofoam cooler lid. It was found in the same geographical area as the bag.

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters

LIVE: JFRD, Coast Guard give update on search for missing firefighters. LATEST:

Posted by Action News Jax on Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Update Aug. 20 at 9:12 a.m.: Two planes are conducting a light search and two boats and a fast response cutter that searched throught the night, continues to remain on scene.

Update Aug. 19 at 7:55 a.m.: Firefighters from Jacksonville and surrounding agencies are expected back out on the water to search for Brian McCluney and Justin Walker. JFRD is looking for volunteers who have boats capable of searching between 30 and 60 miles offshore safely. Walker's wife, Natasha Walker is getting a birdseye view of the search area that spans to South Carolina.

Update Aug. 19 at 3 p.m.: The wife of a local JFRD firefighter who has been missing at sea since Saturday from Port Canaveral posted to Facebook that her husband's tackle bag was found 50 miles off the shore of St. Augustine. The U.S. Coast Guard continues the search for him and his friend.

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters. LATEST:

Posted by Action News Jax on Monday, August 19, 2019

Update Aug. 19 at 12:30 p.m.: JFRD says that over 135 people have come out today to assist with the search for the two missing men. There are currently 36 boats searching from Brunswick, Ga. to St. Augustine, Fla.

JFRD has expressed thanks to the community and other agencies for all of their support. Searching for the missing boaters will continue until dark, JFRD says.

The agency further expressed that this is still very much a rescue mission. The two men were raised on the water and have the skills needed to survive for a long time, according to JFRD.

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters

LIVE: JFRD to give update on search for missing firefighters

Posted by Action News Jax on Monday, August 19, 2019

Update Aug. 19 at 7:52 a.m.: The Coast Guard says they have covered 24,000 miles. The search continues from Port Cananveral to north of Jacksonville.

Update Aug. 19 at 7 a.m.: JFRD and other volunteers, including JSO employees are gathering at the Mayport boat ramp to continue the search for a Jacksonville firefighter Brian McCluney and his friend Justin Walker.

Update Aug. 19 at 4:01 a.m.: H&S Shrimp Company is asking for volunteers with boats that can go 40 miles or more offshore to help in the search.

Local firefighters are expected to resume their search Monday morning.

Update Aug. 18 at 9:15 p.m.: The Coast Guard announced the search for two missing boaters off the coast will continue through the night with planes, boats and radar.

Update Aug. 18 at 5:45 p.m.: The US Coast Guard said the reports from a civilian aircraft of a boat matching the ID of the missing firefighters' craft turned out to be unrelated debris.

They did not find a boat, but are expanding the search in the area.

Update Aug. 18 at 4:45 p.m.: The Coast Guard said a civilian plane saw a craft matching the ID of a missing boat 50 miles off the coast of Jacksonville Sunday afternoon.

The Coast Guard searched the surrounding area and found a cooler and several life jackets. A ship has been dispatched from Mayport to assist with the ongoing search.

Update Aug. 18 at 2:52 p.m.: The Coast Guard said crews are investigating reports of a debris field 50 miles east of St. Augustine.

However, they have confirmed it's not related to the missing boaters.

Update Aug. 18 at 7 a.m.: The search continues for the missing boaters.

#Update 3:Crews have totaled an est 4800 miles and continue to search for the overdue @PortCanaveral boaters with surface & air assets. Crews are searching @PortCanaveral area up to north of @CityofJax and approximately 80 miles off shore following. #HappeningNow #BreakingNews

Update Aug. 17 at 6:48 p.m.: In a Facebook post, missing boater Brian McCluney's wife said the Coast Guard has suspended the air search until Sunday morning, but will continue to search by boat and radar overnight.

According to Stephanie McCluney's post, the search area will move north as the Coast Guard continues to survey the coast off Volusia County throughout the night.

Original Story:

The Coast Guard is searching for two boaters that didn't return from a fishing trip Saturday off the coast of Port Canaveral.

Brian McCluney and Justin Walker were last seen leaving the 300 Christopher Columbus boat ramp Friday in a 24-foot center console heading toward 8A Reef.



According to the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, McCluney is a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighter from Station 31 near Oak Hill Park.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department said in a Facebook post that Walker is a Master Technician at the Virginia fire department near Washington D.C.

The Coast Guard has deployed a search plane and several boats to look for the overdue boaters. The Navy and Brevard County Sheriff's Office are assisting with the search.

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

Download WJAX Apps