Coast Guard suspends search for missing firefighters

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The Coast Guard stopped its search for two missing firefighters Thursday night. Brian McCluney from Jacksonville, Fla., and Justin Walker of Fairfax, Va., left a launch ramp in Port Canaveral, Fla., last Friday and have not been seen since.

A massive search effort that included Coast Guard vessels and aircraft, plus hundreds of volunteers including mostly Jacksonville area firefighters, has been ongoing since the two were reported missing late last Friday. The search has covered the coastlines of three states. A tackle bag belonging to one of the firefighters was found earlier this week, but searchers have not made any additional discoveries.

On the local ABC news affiliate on Thursday, Coast Guard captain Mark Vlaun told reporters that the agency is no longer able to conduct the search with “a probability of success.” He added, “I’m no longer able to pinpoint a specific location.” Vlaun said the search would resume if there are any additional discoveries.

“As of right now, I don’t think there’s any organized search,” John Long, vice president of the Jacksonville Firefighters Association 221, told Trade Only Today this morning when asked if the organization will continue its own search after the Coast Guard suspended its efforts. “We’re hopeful and praying but it’s our job now to support the family and see what they want to do.”

Four $10,000 rewards have been offered in the search for the men. The latest came from Fire Station 31, where McCluney, was stationed. According to news4jax.com, Chief Kevin Thomas announced Thursday evening that it added a $10,000 reward.

Additionally, 1-800-BOARDUP, which is headquartered in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., offered a $10,000 reward and last Wednesday, International Marine announced its own $10,000 reward to any pilot or boat that located either or both of the missing firefighters.

Michael Reimer is the owner of International Marine in Boynton Beach, Fla., and a retired firefighter. “I have a lot of friends in the business and these guys are both firefighters,” he said in a statement. “I have friends who work in Fairfax and Jacksonville. So we got involved early on by organizing search teams with private parties.”

Reimer estimated that, at one point, International Marine had 100 boats aiding in the search. “The search is going to continue privately,” Reimer said, following the Coast Guard announcement.

On Thursday, Palm Outdoors Bar and Grille in Ponte Verde Beach, offered its own $10,000 reward. “We want to get the word out, as a community,” Toni Kara, the restaurant owner, said in a statement. “We still need to come together and continue searching.”

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