It has been nearly a week since a Fairfax County, Virginia, firefighter went missing off the coast of Florida, and the U.S. Coast Guard said time is running out for the multiple agencies and volunteers involved in the widespread search effort.
“We continue to be in a race against the clock,” said Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun. “We’re all struggling and we’re all hoping to find something.”
Justin Walker, a master technician for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, was last seen going on a fishing trip with his friend Brian McCluney, a member of the Jacksonville, Florida, fire department.
The pair left early Friday on McCluney’s 24-foot center console boat off Port Canaveral.
By late Friday night, family members contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and said they did not return as planned and could not be reached by phone.
On Monday, search crews recovered McCluney’s fishing tackle bag about 50 miles off St. Augustine in north Florida, but little has been found since then.
“We are going to have to have a conversation about whether we can continue an active search and whether we still have an opportunity to be successful,” Vlaun said.
Although there is no firm deadline on when the search will be called off, Vlaun said that decision could come Thursday.
As of Wednesday night, the Coast Guard said the search had covered more than 90,000 square miles.
“We’re in some critical times right now,” said Jacksonville fire chief Keith Powers. “Time has really become our enemy.”
Powers said the search area was shifting far north and would be focused on the waters off the coast of South Carolina, as computer models indicated that the firefighters could have drifted there.
The nonprofit Jacksonville FireFighter Charities set up an online fundraiser to help the search effort and to help the families of the firefighters.
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