Coast Guard suspends search for missing boaters

The U.S. Coast Guard made a somber announcement in Jacksonville on Thursday afternoon.

“Meeting with our partners, meeting with families and other search assets, I made the extremely difficult decision today, we will suspend the active search tonight at sundown,” said Captain Mark Vlaun.  “At this point, without additional information, we have simply reached a point that our computer modeling and our ability to search in a given location are no longer allowing us to search with any reasonable degree or probability of success.”

The announcement hit hard, especially the firefighters helping with the search.  

“I talked to the families before I came out here, and they're heart broken and I can't say I feel any different right now,” said a spokesperson from Fairfax County, Virginia’s fire department.

According to the USCG.  Air craft and cutter searches now exceeds 100,000 square miles, from the Central Florida coast to several hundred miles off the coast of New England. A tackle bag belonging to Brian McCluney found Monday afternoon about 50 miles (80.47 km) off the coast of St. Augustine is still the only item found confirmed to be from missing fire fighter’s boat.

“I'll never forget that day,” said Garrett Shurling.

He and his father and a friend of theirs, volunteers who drove down from Savannah, GA and launched their boat out of St. Augustine to help in the search, found the bag along the edge of the Gulf Stream.

“Finding something that was on that boat when they left, everyone was very, very hopeful.  I was told the Coast Guard would bring all their assets in right there and search. We were hopeful by the end of the day they'd be home,” said Shurling.  

“In my 25 year career i have never seen a more comprehensive or more, larger search effort for the area for the time and duration that we ran,” Captain Vlaun told reporters.  

He said he brought in the USCG’s search and rescue planners to talk to Brian McCluney and Kevin Walker’s families to walk them through step by step, every action they've done in the search and to answer any questions.  

Late Thursday afternoon Walker’s wife got on board a private plane to help search from above for her husband and their friend.  A search volunteer told The News Station the plane was heading towards an area where there was lots of activity on Thursday, off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina.  That volunteer also said there would be other family members and fire fighters continuing the search from planes Friday.