SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV/WTLV) – Officials announced early Thursday afternoon they are suspending active search operations for two missing firemen who left Port Canaveral, Florida, last week and never returned.
“We had to make the extremely difficult decision to suspend the search at sundown,” said U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun. “But when we suspend a search we never stop operating.”
Vlaun said the call was made due to the lack of new information and the decreased likelihood of success in locating Brian McCluney and Justin Walker.
“It’s an extremely tough decision when you have a brother out there that you just can’t find,” said Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD) Chief Keith Powers.
McCluney is a member of JFRD and Walker is a firefighter in Fairfax, Virginia.
The search spanned over 105,000 square miles, twice the size of Florida, from Port Canaveral to New England.
“In my 25-year-career with the U.S. Coast Guard I have never seen a larger search operation,” said Vlaun.
First responders in the Coastal Empire aided in the search, including Savannah Fire Rescue as well as Chatham and Effingham county’s marine patrol units.
Others back at home said they are there in spirit.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, brothers and sisters. No matter where they’re part of, what department, what part of the country, it’s a family,” said Chief Jason Patterson with Tybee Island Fire Department.
The wives and family members of the two firemen were brought in on Thursday morning and sat down with search and rescue planners to discuss the details of the search.
There, the Coast Guard says that they answered questions and reassured them that just because they were stopping the active search, they were not going to stop looking.
“We’re still looking for Justin and Brian,” said Vlaun. “If we get any new information about them that will help restart (the search) process.”
Nonetheless, JFRD says that the wives and family members of Brian McCluney and Justin Walker are absolutely heartbroken.
“They’re heartbroken and I can’t say that I feel any different right now,” Powers said.