U.S. Coast Guard

Search for firefighters who went missing off Florida coast to be suspended at sundown, officials say

August 22, 2019 - 1:06 pm
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(PORT CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The search for two firefighters who went missing during a fishing trip off the coast of Florida last week will suspend at sundown on Thursday, officials announced.

Jacksonville, Fla., firefighter Brian McCluney and Fairfax, Va., firefighter Justin Walker never returned after launching off the coast of Port Canaveral, near the Kennedy Space Center, on Friday, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials.

Search and rescue teams continued to look for the pair on Thursday, but U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun told reporters at a news conference that the search would conclude at sundown and not extend into an eighth day.

Because of the strength of the Gulf Stream, the search area currently exceeds 105,000 square miles -- from Florida to several hundred miles off the coast of New England, Vlaun said, adding that officials are no longer able to look for the men with a "probability of success."

"I'm no longer able to pinpoint a specific location," Vlaun said.

Searchers were not able to find any additional evidence after a fishing bag that belonged to McCluney was found by a civilian about 50 nautical miles east of St. Augustine, Fla., about 100 miles north from where the pair set off, Vlaun said.

The 24-foot boat they left on also has not been found.

Vlaun described the announcement to end the search as "the hardest decision any Coast Guard leader makes," but added that the Coast Guard would resume operations if new information emerged.

"If some further clue opens up, we would restart the search and rescue process," he said.

The family has been informed of the decision, Vlaun said.

"We just have to continue to pray alongside the family that we learn something going forward that will allow us to respond again," he said.

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