Neighbors upset elderly man's power was shut off prior to his death
Wed, 22 Feb 2012 00:16:00 GMT —
Neighbors of an elderly man that was found dead in truck after his power was shut off are still in shock over his tragic death.
86-year old John Morgan was found in his truck Monday morning. Flint Police say he was in the car for nearly three days trying to stay warm. Consumers Energy had shut off his power the Friday before.
"It's real sad, it's very sad. It surprised me how they found him in there like that," said Morgan's neighbor Kenneth Miller.
"If I had known he was in there I would have told him to get out of there," said Miller.
Autopsy results are pending but investigators say Morgan died from natural causes and not from hypothermia. They say he was sick and had several health issues.
Still neighbors are concerned that his death could be related to a lack of heat in the house.
"It seems like someone paying the bills there for that many years you think Consumer's would've known he was elderly," said Miller.
Consumers Energy released this statement to NBC25 regarding Morgan's shutoff:
"This is a very tragic situation, and our condolences go out to Mr. Morgan's family. Consumers Energy is fully supporting and cooperating with the police investigation regarding this matter. Our company policy is that we do not shut off electric or natural gas service to seniors in the winter, but they must notify us so their account can be coded as such. Unfortunately it appears this account was not coded to indicate a senior lived there. At the time of the shut-off to this customer our field employee knocked on the door but got no response. Twice a year through our Newsline billing newsletter we ask customers to contact us if they are seniors so their accounts can be coded. We urge customers who are having difficulties paying their bills to contact us immediately, and not to wait for a shut-off notice. We want to help keep their natural gas and electric service on, and there are many payment programs as well as assistance available from various organizations for those in need. Consumers Energy has also had the Gatekeeper Program in place to aid senior citizens since 1987. In the program's 20-plus years of service our employees are recognized monthly and annually for reporting select senior citizens who appear to be in need of special assistance to the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging."
There is a law in place regarding power shutoffs to senior citizens. According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, during the winter season a utility company cannot shut off service to an eligible senior citizen, that is someone who is 65 years or older, but he or she has to advise the company of his or her eligibility.
The measure was prompted by the 2009 death of Marvin Schur. He's the 93-year-old Bay City man who froze to death inside his home after Bay City Electric Light & Power installed a power-limiting device due to unpaid bills.
NBC25 spoke with the Genesee County Community Action Resource Department and they said the need is so high right now they would not have been able to do much for John Morgan.
"if he had landed on our door last week week, we would not have able to help him, said GCARD Director Steve Walker.
Walker said the agency ran out of funds to help people with power shutoffs in December but says he's expecting about $150,000 in March to help families and he says it can't come soon enough.
"This is the worse I've ever seen it and I'm a 32 year veteran of this kind of program," said Walker.
There are a number of other resources available. If you or someone you know needs help paying bills you can can contact Adult Protective Services with the Department of Human Services and you can apply for benefits on their website www.michigan.gov/mibridges.
DHS officials say anyone who applies and qualifies right now will be helped.