The Coast Guard and volunteers have extended the search for two firefighters who have been missing since they launched a boat near Port Canaveral, Fla., last Friday morning.
“We have had Coast Guard cutters on scene searching throughout the night,” petty officer 3 class Ryan Dickinson, a Coast Guard Public Affairs specialist in Jacksonville, Fla., told Trade Only Today this morning. The agency will also launch C130 and other aircraft for at least two flights today.
The search for Justin Walker, a firefighter in the Fairfax, Va., area and Brian McCluney, an engineer with the Jacksonville, Fla., fire department, has now been extended as far south as Miami and north along the coasts of Georgia and South and North Carolina. When the two headed out in a 24-foot center console boat, they were headed toward the 8A reef, a popular fishing spot off Brevard County, Fla.
According to wftv.com, the Coast Guard confirmed the last cell phone ping it received from the missing boat was Friday afternoon about 12 miles offshore. The only other clue that had been found was a tackle bag that was confirmed to have belonged to one of the men by family members.
Jacksonville firefighters have volunteered extensively during the search with more than 100 people in 40 boats covering 5,000 square miles of ocean on Wednesday. “We’ve got to get one eye to see,” said Brian McCluney’s wife, Stephanie McCluney in a statement. “All it takes is one eye, but it takes a multitude out there. That is a big space.”
The Coast Guard did find some debris, but Dickinson said, “We worked with the families to determine if it was related to the missing boaters and it was not.”
Two local businesses have offered $10,000 rewards. International Marine is offering the reward to any pilot or boat that locates either or both of these missing firefighters. "This hits especially close to home as one of our Pro Staff is on the same shift and department as one of the missing firefighters," Brian Koch wrote announcing the reward.
Michael Hosto, who owns 1-800-BOARDUP, told News4Jax yesterday that he tried searching the beach himself, but felt he needed to do more. He hopes the $10,000 reward will prompt more people to search the water.
"I would ride my bike on the beach every morning trying to contribute in some way, but I felt relatively helpless and thought that a $10,000 reward might help create awareness up and down the coast and Georgia and the Carolinas to our firefighter from Jacksonville," Hosto told the news station.