BTUSAR Press Release

Carl Mattocks
Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue (BTUSAR) Squad 86

Honored to be Honored
BTUSAR Volunteers Enjoy Thank You Day Celebration But Say the Work's Not Over Yet
December 8, 2012
Last Sunday, Berkeley Township offered it's "Storm Warriors" a chance to celebrate at a Thank You Day party hosted by the Berkeley Little League. Among the first responders in attendance were the volunteers of the Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue (BTUSAR) Squad 86 who are credited with helping over 100 people escape rising floodwaters during the massive storm.

Squad members touched base with other first responders, played games and enjoyed food and amenities supplied by many of the town's local businesses. Throughout the afternoon, volunteers and local officials offered the squad their thanks and congratulations.

Squad members Tom and Bobby Barden enjoy a game of ping pong
at the Berkeley Little League facility.

The event was also an opportunity to discuss events since the storm and work yet to be done.

Speaking with Berkeley Mayor Carmen Amato and Council Members Judy Noonan and John Bacchione, BTUSAR President, Carl Mattocks, described some of BTUSAR's recovery efforts. Since Sandy, BTUSAR has been helping local residents move boats that were sunk or stranded in the storm. "Those boats that were stuck in trees," said Mattocks. "We helped take down some of those."

BTUSAR members speak with Mayor Amato. Pictured are Greg Elliot, Chief Rick Pullen, Assistant Chief, Rich Zeller and BTUSAR President, Carl Mattocks.
BTUSAR members Greg Elliot, Training Officer Paul Skehan and BTUSAR President, Carl Mattocks share their stories with Council Members Judy Noonan and John Bacchione.

Mattocks offered BTUSAR's services to Mayor Amato, in dealing with new underwater hazards and changes to local waterways. "It's not just the sunken boats" says Mattocks, "it's the water contamination from fuel and oil, as well as the environmental impact. Using side-scan sonar, BTUSAR can map the hazards. We can also collect samples to determine the levels of contamination from diesel, oil, and other substances left behind by sunken vessels other debris that was captured by Sandy's waters and pulled back by receding tides."

"The waterways have to be re-mapped" adds Rich Zeller, BTUSAR's Assistant Chief, who participates in the Squad's boat race safety duties for the Jersey Outlaws racing association every Summer. "Sand bars have moved and I'm wondering about the shoals as well. Routes boaters have taken through local waters for years have changed."

While BTUSAR's volunteers help their community, the Squad has its own recovery efforts to deal with. Their headquarters, which served as an impromptu emergency shelter and dispatch during Sandy was damaged by the storm. Also, much of the equipment they used during their rescue efforts was lost, damaged or contaminated.

"We acquired twenty new heavy-duty wetsuits earlier this year," says Mattocks. "All of them were contaminated with diesel fuel as we waded through the floodwaters. We also need to repair or replace our Stokes baskets." he added, referring to the metal baskets used to carry injured victims to safety.

In addition to repairing and replacing gear, the storm has brought to light other equipment that the Squad needs in order to be prepared for future storms.  Among those items, GPS units that can be used to navigate when street signs and other landmarks are underwater and more vehicles suitable to traversing flooded streets.

"Our old Ford van was the workhorse" says Paul Skehan, BTUSAR's training officer. We were able to drive it in further than other vehicles were able to go and used it carry victims to safety.

With the Squad's needs far exceeding its limited funding, the team has started planning fundraising projects to raise money. Donations of equipment are also welcome.  Says Skehan, "we could certainly use a few more vans like the one that got us through Sandy!"

Amidst Sunday's fun and planning, there was also some sour news. "It has come to our attention," says Mattocks, "that someone not affiliated with BTUSAR has been going around town using the BTUSAR logo on their business cards."
BTUSAR Squad 86's Logo

BTUSAR's services include search and recovery, environmental investigation, water safety for film sets, media diving and support services, insurance investigations and reports, historical and archaeological investigations, boat salvage, marina survey and maintenance, ice and water safety education, and marine surveys for depth and obstructions.

"We offer our services as part of our public safety mission," added Zeller. "We're not competing with local businesses, but it is important that people know when they are dealing with our Squad."

Zeller continued, "people can call us at (732)269-7969 to make sure they are dealing with Berkeley Township Underwater Search And Rescue."

For more information about BTUSAR contact President Carl Mattocks at or by phone at (732)269-7969.
Photos by Cristina Kollet


Richard Zeller, Assistant Chief
Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue (BTUSAR) Squad 86

Local Volunteer Dive Squad Saves over 100 People from Hurricane Sandy

Volunteer Members of BTUSAR Risked their Lives While Their Own Homes Were Being Damaged

NOVEMBER 3, 2012

The first call came in about 9AM Monday morning (October 29, 2012) as winds from the leading edge of the storm system began pushing tidal waters inland, past the barrier islands and toward Berkeley Township and other Jersey Shore communities.

For the next 52 hours, as Hurricane Sandy, approached, made landfall, and passed overhead, bringing with it record tides and floodwaters that reached up to two miles inland, the members of the all volunteer Berkeley Township Under Water Search and Rescue (BTUSAR) Squad 86 worked tirelessly to rescue local residents.

Where local police and fire vehicles were unable to traverse the deepening waters and strong tidal surge, BTUSAR members came with boats and, wearing wetsuits, even waded through the chest-deep waters. They guided, carried, and ferried local residents from their flooding homes.

"We had four teams working on rotation plus our command station." Says Richard Zeller, BTUSAR Assistant Chief. "At last count, we rescued over hundred residents."

And that's not all. BTUSAR's Training Officer, Paul Skehan notes, that BTUSAR's squad house also ended up serving as a shelter for those rescued from the storm. Says Skehan, "Our team returned from a run to find a police lieutenant at the squad house with his laptop. A tree had fallen on the generators of the dispatch station and shelters were full. From that point on, the victims stayed with us until they could be bused to safety. At one point I came back from a call to find every available space filled with people sleeping or getting warm."

A tree damaged by Hurricane Sandy's winds lies beside the BTUSAR Squad house that sheltered victims of Hurricane Sandy's floodwaters Monday night.

It's worth mentioning that Sunday night, when BTUSAR went on call gathering at the Squad House to prepare vehicles and equipment they did not expect to be activated until after Hurricane Sandy had passed. Public announcements by Governor Christie as well as communications from local officials had been that first responders would not be called to rescue those who had ignored the mandatory evacuation orders, until the storm had passed.

But in the hours after that first call Monday morning, the BTUSAR team worked tirelessly and selflessly to rescue those in Sandy's path—even as their own homes were threatened.

Says Zeller, "During this storm I've seen the best humanity has to offer and some of the worst. I want to commend our officers and crew for putting themselves on the line and making the sacrifices they did to make sure that others were safe.
When asked about finding that his own home had been demolished by a falling tree Monday night when he was on duty, Zeller responded, "I don't care. My kids, family , and friends are all safe. We helped hundreds of families and that is what matters."

BTUSAR is an all volunteer organization. They meet twice a week for training sessions covering everything from first aid to under water search and recovery. For the last two years, they have also served as the safety team at speedboat races for the Jersey Outlaws racing association.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, BTUSAR, while standing down, is still serving the community. Yesterday, Zeller and other members of the squad raised a boat that had sunk in a lagoon with 150 gallons of fuel on board. The six-hour operation not only saved the boat, but also prevented the environmental damage that would have resulted from spilled fuel. Today, and in the days to come, BTUSAR members are making themselves available for body recovery efforts.

BTUSAR Squad 86 has been serving the residents of Berkeley Township and surrounding areas since 1979. They are an all volunteer unit of trained underwater rescue and recovery divers with EMTs and commercial divers on staff. Their mission is any and all marine rescue emergency response above or below the water line and to respond to mutual aid requests in any other emergency within the realm of the unit's training.

For more information about BTUSAR contact Assistant Chief Richard Zeller at or by phone at 609-661-8207.

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