Plea for help over missing mariners

The families of two Florida firefighters missing at sea yesterday asked for Bermuda deep sea fishermen to help in the search for them, and offered a $70,000 reward for information.

Justin Walker and Brian McCluney set out in a Robalo 24ft centre console boat, early on August 16 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Experienced boaters, the pair were expected to return home by 6pm, but never returned to port.

Mr Walker is a firefighter in Fairfax County, Florida and Mr McCluney, an Iraq War veteran, is a firefighter in Jacksonville, Florida. Both have been trained as paramedics. Natasha Walker, Mr Walker’s wife, said: “They have been good friends since college.

“They both have really good survivals skills. They grew up in Florida, so they grew up on the water. They take this fishing trip every year.”

She added that even items that washed ashore in Bermuda could help trace Mr Walker and Mr McCluney. Don Harding, a family friend, added: “They have done the most extensive search in history off of Florida.

“Basically, they still have a few grids to be searched to finish up the coast, but we have an expert who is saying it’s likely if the boat is still floating, it’s coming this way.

“We were hoping to charter a boat and get an aircraft, but it’s not something that’s readily available, so we are trying to get the word out to the fishermen.

“There are fishermen who go out 100 miles. We want them to keep their eyes open. We want to resolve this somehow.”

He added: “We know this might be a long shot, but if one of these fishermen are out there and they spot something, there is a $70,000 reward.

“We are trying to get some awareness out there.

“We are working to get an aircraft out here, and we will be going to the marinas next. These guys are heroes and we need to get them back.”

Mr Harding said three days after the pair disappeared a fishing bag was found and identified.

He said: “From that, they were able to re-grid and the Coast Guard was saying if they could find one more thing they could re-grid again, but because that was the lone clue, as the days went by, it became less useful.”

Mr Walker and Mr McCluney were last seen on CCTV footage as they backed their boat down a boat ramp at 11.30am on August 16.

A mobile phone ping was later recorded at 1pm, which showed the men were 31 miles off Brevard County, where they planned to fish.

The US Coast Guard searched more than 146,000 square miles for six days, but did not find the men or their boat.

Anyone with information should contact Bermuda Maritime Operations at 297-1010.

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Published Aug 30, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 30, 2019 at 8:00 am)

Plea for help over missing mariners

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