Although the Coast Guard has suspended the active search of the two boaters that went missing off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, their families have not given up hope that they can be found safe.
Justin Walker, Master Technician for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue in Virginia, was last seen Aug. 16 after he went out on a fishing trip with his friend Brian McCluney, a Jacksonville, Florida, firefighter. The pair left that Friday morning from Port Canaveral on a 24-foot center console boat.
“Justin was home in Florida for his sister’s birthday dinner,” Walker’s cousin Rebecca Hampton Buhler said. “He came home to surprise her and to celebrate. Brian’s father also just passed away last month so while Justin was home, they decided to meet in Port Canaveral and take the boat out one last time and go fishing. It was Brian’s dad’s boat.”
According to Buhler, they were only supposed to be out on the water for five hours. The Coast Guard in Florida was called late Friday night when they didn’t return.
“Our entire family just wants to express our gratitude to the Coast Guard,” Buhler said. “They conducted the biggest search and rescue in history for us. Also, thanks to Jacksonville Fire and Rescue and Rescue and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, they have done everything that they can do in their power to keep our families both comfortable and informed.”
Buhler said the family is still being very proactive in searching for the pair along the entire East Coast. The family has even partnered with DEEMI Search and Rescue, located in Maine.
“Even though the Coast Guard has suspended the search and rescue, they are still patrolling the seaboard, just not in concentrated areas.”
Justin’s uncle, Jim Futch, and his dad, Rick Walker are currently in Charleston going up in planes searching for any signs of the pair and have also spoken with the Hatteras, North Carolina sheriff along with boat captains in that state seeking assistance.
They are asking for anyone along the coast of Horry and Georgetown County with boats to look for any signs of the boat.
“We need volunteers,” she said. We need people with boats to search. We need help.”
Justin Walker is a member of the Strength & Honor Motorcycle Club back home in Virginia and the organization has a website where donations can be made to help the families continue to search.
“They are now giving 100 percent of the donations to our family to assist in the search,” Buhler said. “It is also tax-deductible, so we want people to know that all of the money goes right to our family. There’s no fees or anything else like that.”
The family started a Facebook group, Bring Justin & Brian, which now has over 18,000 members. In the group, sightings or news can be shared with the family.
Buhler said that Justin’s sister Misty wants everyone to understand that her brother is “physically and mentally strong enough to survive this”. “He’s got such a strong will. He loves us as much as we love him so we know he will do everything he can do to survive and come home,” she said.
“Justin has always been the life of the party,” she said. “He has always been known for the way he smiles. He is so resourceful and creative. He is such a strong guy.”
According to Buhler, the family knows they pair are out there somewhere, and they do not plan on losing hope.
“Our family does not give up on each other,” she said. “We will keep looking and keep the faith. We are really strong in our beliefs with God and we know that God is going to bring them home to us.”
If you want to donate the link is https://www.shmcva.com/ and the link to the Facebook group is https://www.facebook.com/groups/BringJustinAndBrianHome/.