2 off-duty firefighters missing after launching fishing boat off Florida coast

Port Canaveral/Twitter

(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — A desperate search continued Sunday for two off-duty firefighters who never returned from a fishing trip off the eastern coast of Florida, officials said.

Brian McCluney, a Jacksonville, Florida, firefighter, and Justin Walker, a member of the Fairfax, Virginia, Fire Department, were last seen on Friday launching a 22-foot fishing boat at Port Canaveral, which is near the Kennedy Space Center, U.S. Coast Guard officials said on Sunday.

Relatives reported the men missing Friday night when they failed to return as scheduled from their fishing trip.

About 50 firefighters from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department joined the Coast Guard is searching for the lost firefighters, combing the waters between Daytona Beach and Vilano in 11 boats over the weekend.

Also looking for the men were crews from the U.S. Navy, the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. The Coast Guard also deployed a C-130 plane to search from the air.

Search-and-rescue crews had covered an estimated 4,800 miles of ocean between Port Canaveral and the city of Jacksonville, about 80 miles to the north, Coast Guard officials said in a statement on Twitter Sunday.

Surveillance footage released by the Coast Guard showed McCluney and Walker on Friday at a boat ramp in Port Canaveral putting a fishing vessel into the water.

Patrick Gouin, the district chief from McCluney’s fire station, told ABC affiliate WJXX-TV said that seven of the Jacksonville firefighters helping in the search are from McCluney’s shift, and that colleagues are covering their shifts to free them up to search for McCluney and Walker.

Jacksonville Fire Chief Keith Powers said McCluney’s wife, Stephanie, was also in Port Canaveral monitoring the search.

“In our business, you feel like you need to be doing something,” Powers told WJXX. “But in this situation, our doing is just helping them try to coordinate and provide support for the family and coordinate any needs that they have.”

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