PHOTOS: Kissimmee Utility Authority restores power to one million Puerto Ricans

By Stephanie Bechara, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 6:36 PM EST

Working with other crews around the state, Kissimmee Utility Authority was able to restore power to one million residents in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

  • KUA restored power to one million Puerto Ricans
  • Crew stayed on the island for more than a month
  • Over half of the island has power now, said crew

But for some of these men, the trip there is personal.

Days after Maria, Angel Quiles lost his aunt due to the scarcity of food, water and the inability to refrigerate her much-needed medication.

“It’s very tough to know that I couldn't do more for her,” he said.

This is why he wanted to do more for others under the same conditions. Quiles along with five other KUA co-workers went to Puerto Rico to help restore electricity.

Touched by these types of challenges, his colleague Tony Nasco, who’s not even Puerto Rican, volunteered to make the trip. The crew stayed there for more than a month and labored 16-hour work days.

“When that storm hit I saw how it struck them and it touched home for them,” Nasco said. “We’re a really tight crew throughout the whole line crew. Everybody is really tight here. So I definitely wanted to go."

Luis Santiago, their supervisor, said that despite the dire conditions on the island, he always felt at home.

“We got coffee, we got sandwiches, we got cake and it was like amazing for them to be without power for two months and to still treat us the way they treated us,” Santiago said. “I was really proud of my heritage, of my people.”

These guys wish they could have stayed longer and are hoping other crews around the nation will step up and help.

“I wish that we could go back. I would be willing to go back and I am pretty sure half of the guys here that went with us,” said Roberto Diaz, another lineman for KUA. “They would go back to and even more people would go back for the second round.”

Quiles said he did this not only for his aunt but for his island — an island he wants to see shine bright again.

“Even though we’re down, we’re really not down," Quiles said. "Our spirit is still high."

The KUA crew estimates that when they got to the island only 10 to 15 percent of the island had power. That number has now increased to more than half.