Florida

Search for missing boaters extends beyond Florida as family looks for another ‘miracle’

Search for missing boaters who went missing near Port Canaveral

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department put a call out for help to help find the missing boaters and this was the initial turnout.
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Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department put a call out for help to help find the missing boaters and this was the initial turnout.

Four days. 46,800 miles. The search for two firefighters lost at sea continues.

Brian McCluney, a Navy veteran and Jacksonville firefighter, and Justin Walker, a Virginia firefighter, launched from the 300 Christopher Columbus boat ramp in Jacksonville near Port Canaveral Friday on a 24-foot center console boat, heading to “8A” reef.

They haven’t been seen since.

A family member notified authorities that the boaters never returned Friday evening, as planned.

Led by the U.S. Coast Guard Southeast, the air and water search has covered 46,800 square miles in 108 hours and has extended up to Charleston, South Carolina, as of Monday night.

Family members are hoping for another “miracle.”

Stephanie Young McCluney, one of the missing firefighters wife, has been posting on Facebook throughout the search, providing updates, sharing stories about her husband and asking for prayers.

“Miracles happen on day 3! This is Day 3,” she wrote Monday morning. Hours later, her husband’s tackle bag was found about 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine.

“I wholeheartedly believe this is a bread crumb they through overboard to say “we are here, come find us” I am standing firm on my face in prayer and that this be our Lord and savior guiding our path,” McCluney wrote on Facebook.

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Walker’s sister feels the same.

“It gives me a lot of hope because it means they’re out there and they’re alive and they’re trying to tell us ‘we’re out here, come get us,’” said Jessica Bergstresser to Fox News.

Other agencies are assisting in the search including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Air Force and Florida Fish & Wildlife. Local law enforcement, civilian pilots and boaters are also lending a helping hand, according to a Facebook post McCluney shared.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue is also coordinating search groups with volunteers who have boats capable of searching between 30-60 miles offshore safely.

“Someone needs help, so we are trying to go out there and see what we can do,” volunteer Joe Larsen told ClickOrlando.com. “If I am broke down or capsized, I want everybody to come look for me. That’s why I am doing it.”

Those who are interested in helping but don’t have a boat, can donate to the fund The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters has created to help support the search efforts and the firefighters families. Those interested in donating can visit jfrd.com

Anyone with information that can help with the search is asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville Command Center at 904-714-7558.

Boaters or pilots interested in volunteering their services should contact their local law enforcement agencies.

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Body cam video shows a daring rescue by two Okaloosa County Sheriff Office deputies. The rocky water, caused by Tropical Storm Barry, sent a large wave against their boat. It smashed the windshield, cutting Deputy Robert Wagner's face and body.

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Real Time/Breaking News Reporter. There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and I cover it. Graduated with honors from Florida International University. Find me on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
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