UPDATED: Coast Guard suspending search for missing firefighters at sundown

Firefighters Brian McCluney (left) of Jacksonville, Florida and Justin Walker of Fairfax County. [Photo courtesy Jacksonville Fire and Rescue]

Tonight at sundown, the Coast Guard will suspend the search for two firefighters missing at sea since Friday, Aug. 16.

The massive search for Fairfax County, Virginia firefighter Justin Walker and Jacksonville, Florida firefighter Brian McCluney is now in its sixth day and has covered more than 100,000 square miles.

Search efforts continue today by air and sea, centered in the Savannah area.

The two friends didn’t return from a fishing trip out of Port Canaveral, Florida on Friday. The only clue that turned up in the search was a tackle bag belonging to McCluney found on Monday.

“We met with families right before I came out here and they’re heartbroken,” said Jacksonville Fire Chief Keith Powers, his voice breaking. “I can’t say I feel any differently right now.”

Coast Guard Capt. Mike Vlaun said the decision to end the search was “extremely difficult,” and thanked the community for volunteering and donating in order to extend the effort as long and far as possible.

Beachgoers on Hatteras Island and south are still asked to look out for debris that may be associated with the missing boaters. Call the Coast Guard at 252-986-2175 if you find anything.

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Kari Pugh is digital director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at kpugh@jammediallc.com