Minggu, 16 Agustus 2020

One year later: Remembering two off-duty firefighters lost at sea - FirstCoastNews.com WTLV-WJXX

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Jacksonville Fire Rescue Chief Keith Powers reflects on the search to find two missing firefighters lost at sea one year ago after they went fishing.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Sunday marks one year since Jacksonville firefighter Brian McCluney and Virginia firefighter Justin Walker were lost at sea after going fishing in Port Canaveral.

“It was actually a Friday night I remember it plain as day,” Jacksonville Fire Chief Keith Powers said. “Saturday morning, I got up went to Port Canaveral and met the family down there and was with them throughout the day while that search was you know beginning to ramp up.”

The search for the two off-duty firefighters would cover an area the size of Montana as the U.S. Coast Guard, firefighters and hundreds of volunteers in their own boats and planes scoured the ocean from Central Florida to New England. After six days, the Coast Guard made the grueling decision to call off the search.

Powers said there are no new clues as to what happened to McCluney and Walker.

“We have not heard, seen, or found any evidence,” Powers said. "There's been nothing that's washed up or come from you know, come from this incident at all besides that one tackle bag firefighters found 50 miles offshore Mayport.”

While he doesn’t know what happened to the men, he does know just how supportive this community is, and he will never forget a woman coming to the command post in Mayport during the search.

“She said, 'I live right across the street in those trailers,' and she said, 'I don't have anything to help and I'm trying to think what could I do,' and she said, 'the only thing I could do,' and she gets out of her car and she reaches in the backseat to pull out a six-pack of water, little short bottles," Powers recalled. "She said, 'I want to give you all this water to help you to give to the searchers and the only other thing I can do is pray for you all.' I teared up because you know there's a lady who doesn't have anything in the world that she can give us, but she comes over and does something and it just showed me how good people really are."

While a year has passed, McCluney’s memory remains alive at Fire Station 31. His locker still holds his uniforms, his name is etched on the door of the engine he was assigned, and his suspenders are now used as the pull device to sound the alarm. They’re a reminder of a firefighter who risked his life to save others and whose life brought this community together.

“Any time we've ever asked the community, this Jacksonville community just comes around, wraps arms around us and take care of us,” Power said. “I think what I learned out of that is you know the goodness in people and the greatness of this community that we live in. A lot of communities you don’t see that happening, but our is special and it’s different."

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August 17, 2020 at 12:53AM
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One year later: Remembering two off-duty firefighters lost at sea - FirstCoastNews.com WTLV-WJXX

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