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Search for missing firefighters, one with ties to Palm Beach County, to continue into Wednesday

Posted at 12:33 PM, Aug 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-20 19:08:52-04

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Crews say they plan to continue searching through the evening Tuesday and into at least Wednesday for two firefighters who went missing off the coast of Florida last week.

Brian McCluney and Justin Walker, who attended Palm Beach Atlantic University, were last seen leaving a Port Canaveral boat ramp on Friday morning in a 24-foot vessel. They never returned.

"We're holding out guarded optimism, but to be clear, we're in a race against time," said Capt. Mark Vlaun of the U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday. "I would say the next 24 hours are absolutely critical."

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Jacksonville Fire and Rescue said 200 people, 75 boats, and 11 aircraft are involved in the search on Tuesday.

"I want you to continue to remember these two families in your thoughts and prayers," said Chief Keith Powers with JFR. "It's important that we lift them up right now."

The Coast Guard said the search, which has covered more than 50,000 square miles, is now focused on an area 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine where McCluney's fishing tackle bag was found on Monday.

The Coast Guard didn't indicate how long the rescue mission will last, or when the search may be suspended.

"Each day we have to effectively take a look at what did we find the day before, and do we still have a reasonable chance of success? For today that answer is yes," said Capt. Vlaun.

McCluney is a decorated combat veteran and a firefighter with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue. Walker is a master technician for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia. He attended Palm Beach Atlantic University where he majored in Dance, along with McCluney's wife, Stephanie.