Press Release - September 20, 2017: California Task Force 3 – Last Team member awaiting Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

Published on Sep 20, 2017 at 07:22a.m.

While 81 Members of The Bay Area Urban Search and Rescue Task Force returned Sunday to their base of operations in Menlo Park after driving roughly 5200 miles back and forth across the United States to Elgin Air Force Base in Florida with 11 vehicles, 7 trailers and over 60,000 pounds of search and Rescue equipment but one member was notably absent. 

Carl Levon Kustin with Task Force 3 was hoping to come home from Hurricane Irma on Saturday like his fellow Team members. Unlike the other members of the California Task Force 3 who were staged at Eglin Air Force Base, Kustin was assigned to a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Incident Support Team (IST) that had supported several other Task Forces that had performed search and rescue personnel on the Island of Saint Thomas after Hurricane Irma.

Kustin along with others on the IST were waiting for flights home in Puerto Rico when they were told to cancel those plans and to immediately starting preparing for Hurricane Maria. 

They are currently hold up in the Intercontinental Hotel in Puerto Rico which is a very solid structure with three back up generators, and food/water to last 9 days (Not including MRE's and water). A total force of 276 US&R IST and US&R Task Force Personnel from Florida, Virginia, Texas, New York, Massachusetts and Riverside California, all who had stayed in Puerto Rico.

Kustin wrote in an email, "I am presently working as the West Branch which will be covering the islands of Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques. The East Branch includes the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John. There is a real possibility that we will sustain significant damage on this island, which will make it very difficult to get to the East Branch. If we focus everyone on Puerto Rico, I will most likely be assigned a Division on the island."

Photographs courtesy Menlo Park Fire District and CA-TF3.

 Carl Kustin Is a Veteran member of Task Force 3


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