Florida pilot won't give up looking for missing firefighters even after Coast Guard suspends search

A pilot says the end of the official active search for the missing firefighters won't stop him from continuing to scan the Atlantic from his plane.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Joe Hurston has been flying for more than five decades.

As a chaplain with Air Mobile Ministries, he's helped in a number of search-and-rescue missions.

"We've actually found some people on the sea when all hope was lost," Hurston said.

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That's why Hurston said he couldn’t sit this one out.

As soon as he heard that Brian McCluney and Justin Walker were missing after heading out into the Atlantic Ocean on a fishing trip, he made some phone calls. By chance, he reached Natasha Walker, Justin's wife, and joined the search.

On Thursday, Action News Jax went up with Hurston to see the search efforts firsthand.

Despite news that the U.S. Coast Guard will suspend the active search Thursday night, Hurston said Walker's family remains hopeful.

"Like anything, they’re on waves. They have good moments. They have bad moments. They have moments of doubt. We all do and then we have moments of, 'Let's go find them,'" Hurston said.

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The pilot remembers one mission where six men were lost out in the sea. When everyone had given up, something told Hurston they were still out there.

"I immediately got my little crew together, put them in an airplane, took off, turn 90 degrees from where everybody had been searching for days, flew straight to them in four minutes," he said.

It's now day seven of the search for Walker and McCluney. Hurston believes the men are out there somewhere and he’s not losing hope.

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

Hurston said he’ll head to North Carolina and help search the Gulf Stream for any signs of the two firefighters.

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