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Coast Guard suspends search for missing firefighters off Florida coast

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Posted at 11:19 AM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-26 12:24:50-04

UPDATE:

The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday evening that the search for missing firefighters Brian McCluney and Justin Walker has been suspended.

“Our Coast Guard men and women worked tirelessly alongside federal, state, and local partner agencies as well as countless volunteers searching for Brian and Justin,” said Capt. Mark Vlaun [links.govdelivery.com], Commander, Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville [links.govdelivery.com]. “Despite those efforts, we have been unable to locate any signs of the vessel or the missing boaters. Suspending a search is never an easy decision, and a lot of factors are considered and calculated before we make that decision. We have been in regular contact with the family members throughout our search and extend our heartfelt condolences for what we know is a very difficult time for them.”

Both the AustinBlu and Perry Cohen foundations have been posting on social media since the begging of this week hoping to raise awareness and bring these men home safe.

Both families declined to speak on camera but Austin’s mom Carly in a statement says “We have heavy hearts for the families as this story has touched our hearts and we still grieve for our son. We continue to pray and send love”

Pamela Cohen, Perry’s mom tells WPTV NewsChannel 5 in part, "Our hearts, prayers and never ending support are with Stephanie and Tasha and their families and friends."

EARLIER STORY:

The U.S. Coast Guard says the exhaustive search for two missing firefighters, one of whom has ties to Palm Beach County, will be suspended at sundown Thursday.

Brian McCluney and Justin Walker were last seen leaving a Port Canaveral boat ramp on the morning of Friday, Aug. 16 in a 24-foot vessel. They never returned later that day.

Officials made the heartbreaking decision on Thursday to suspend the search.

"We have simply reached a point where our computer modeling and our ability to search in a given location are no longer allowing us to search with any reasonable degree or probability of success," said Capt. Mark Vlaun with the Coast Guard.

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Capt. Vlaun said the search has covered 105,000 square miles, and stretches from several hundred miles off the coast of New England all the way down to Central Florida.

"We still have Brian and Justin somewhere out there, and we remain with them, our thoughts and prayers remain with them," said Capt. Vlaun.

The Coast Guard said the Gulf Stream has worked against the search efforts because it's pushed potential evidence farther away and expanded the search field.

"We could not have put more into this," said Capt. Vlaun.

McCluney is a decorated combat veteran and a firefighter with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. That agency will suspend its own search for the firefighters at sundown Thursday as well.

"It is unimaginable," said JFRD Chief Keith Powers. "[The firefighters' families] are heartbroke. They're going through a tough time."

Walker is a master technician for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia. He graduated in 2004 from Indian River Charter High School and also attended Palm Beach Atlantic University where he majored in Dance, along with McCluney's wife, Stephanie.