Coast Guard suspending search for missing firefighters

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — U.S. Guard officials said Thursday they plan to suspend the search for two missing firefighters who disappeared after leaving a Florida port on a fishing trip last week.

Surveillance image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard

The search for Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighter Brian McCluney and Justin Walker of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia was being suspended Thursday night, said Capt. Mark Vlaun, a Coast Guard sector commander.

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

The Coast Guard and scores of volunteers began looking for the firefighters last Saturday, a day after they were supposed to have returned to Cape Canaveral. The search by planes and boats from the central Florida coast to the coast of South Carolina had covered 105,000 square miles.

During the search, boaters recovered a tackle bag belonging to one of the firefighters. Vlaun said the search and rescue operations could restart if other clues resurface.

Interim Jacksonville Fire Chief Keith Powers said family members were heartbroken by the news.

"That is an extremely tough decision because we have a brother out there we just haven't been able to find," Powers said.

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Aug. 22

Three Florida businesses are offering a reward of $30,000 to anyone who finds two firefighters who went missing during a boating trip in the Atlantic Ocean.

The search is continuing for Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighter Brian McCluney and Justin Walker of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia. They left Friday in a 24-foot (7.3-meter) vessel from Port Canaveral.

First Coast News reports Palm Beach Valley Outdoor Bar & Grill in Ponte Vedra Beach, International Marine in Boynton Beach and 1-800-BOARDUP in Jacksonville Beach have each put up $10,000 toward the reward.

Toni Kara of Palm Valley bar says if the reward encourages just one person to go out and find them, "then it's worth every penny."

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Aug. 20

A Florida fire official says his department is ramping up its search for two firefighters who've been missing since going boating in the Atlantic Ocean last week.

Jacksonville Interim Fire Chief Keith Powers said the agency needs as "many boats as we can get" to assemble Tuesday morning as the search for Brian McCluney and Justin Walker continues. The men set out in their 24-foot (7.3-meter) boat from Port Canaveral last Friday.

The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies have been searching a wide area of ocean between Cape Canaveral and Jacksonville. On Monday, crews found McCluney's fishing tackle bag some 50 miles (80 kilometers) off St. Augustine.

McCluney works for the Jacksonville department while Walker is a master technician for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia.