Officials to reevaluate search for missing firefighters off Florida coast after 6th day

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U.S. Coast Guard(PORT CANAVERAL, Fla.) — U.S. Coast Guard officials will assess whether to continue the search for two firefighters who went missing on a fishing trip off the coast of Florida after six days of operations.

The search was launched after Jacksonville, Fla., firefighter Brian McCluney and Fairfax, Va., firefighter Justin Walker failed to return from a fishing trip off the coast of Port Canaveral, near the Kennedy Space Center, on Friday, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials.

Since then, the sole piece of debris located from the 22-foot boat the missing men launched is a fishing bag belonging to McCluney, which was found by a civilian about 50 nautical miles east of St. Augustine Monday morning. Nothing has been found since, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun told reporters in a news conference Wednesday.

More than 100 searchers are continuing to operate out of Jacksonville, Brunswick, Ga., Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C., Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Powers told reporters.

The search has become “quite extended,” covering about 5,000 square miles all the way up to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, Vlaun said. The current from the Gulf Stream is so strong that it is pushing any possible relevant debris upward and outward, making the search area “truly extensive and massive,” he added.

Searchers in the air are looking for the men up to 200 miles offshore, Vlaun said.

Others challenges in finding relevant debris is the large amount of trash in the ocean, Vlaun said.

Because of how large the search area has become, and due to the likelihood that the two men could still be alive on the water, officials will re-evaluate whether to continue the search for a seventh day at the end of Wednesday’s operations, Vlaun said.

“Based on what we learn here throughout the evening, we’ll start having to have discussions about whether we can still actively search or whether we need to accept another posture,” he said.

Vlaun reiterated that the search for McCluney and Walker is “a race against time.”

“That is becoming even more acute as we move forward,” he said.

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