An overdue electric bill proved deadly for a New Jersey grandmother who depended on oxygen to survive.
The family of Linda Daniels said they sat with the ailing woman in her sweltering home for hours after her electric-powered oxygen tank and air conditioning stopped working around 10 a.m. last Thursday, NJ.com reported. Accuweather.com showed temperatures reaching well into the 90’s that day, leaving Daniels gasping for air.
“She was trying to catch her breath,” said the woman’s granddaughter, Mia. “She suffered and she passed right in front of us. She was gasping until the time she died.”
Relatives said Daniels, 68, passed away from heart failure after Public Service Enterprise Group, or PSE&G, turned off her power because of an outstanding bill. Family members deny she was behind on her bill, however.
“She had just paid $500 two days before,” Daniels’ daughter, Desiree Washington, told NJ.com, adding that relatives called PSE&G throughout the day begging them to cut the power back on. “We asked them, ‘Why are you turning off her electric at the pole?'”
On May 29th, there was a balance of close to $1,800, but another bill indicates $300 was sent in in April, $450 another month, and July 3rd, two days before Linda died, $500 was paid, local station WABC reported.
“We made numerous calls” Washington continued, saying at one point company reps demanded they stop calling. “We have a large family and everyone in our family was calling. [PSE&G] told us they would be rolling a truck — the truck did not come until the next day.”
At one point during the day, paramedics arrived at the home and provided Daniels with oxygen from a portable tank. Family members remained at her side, fanning her and applying ice packs to her sides to keep her cool.
A PSE&G utility truck finally arrived Friday morning, but Daniels had already died 16 hours earlier, her daughter said. Power to the home was restored on that same day.
“We are horrified. We are angry,” Washington said. “My mother was a taxpayer for 46 years. It’s so sad she had to go like that. And I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
In a statement, PSE&G said service to the Daniels’ home was disconnected “due to lack of payment over several months.
“As part of our policy, PSE&G had notified this customer numerous times that their account was in arrears and that they would be scheduled for a service termination unless the account was made current,” said company spokesman Jim Namitoka.
Moreover, Namitoka claimed Daniels’ family didn’t alert the utility company about her medical issues until after her power was shut off. The family denied this, however, saying they, along with hospice care workers, notified the company in writing about their loved one’s health issues.
PSE&G officials said they’re reviewing company records to determine exactly what went wrong. Newark police are now investigating the incident.