Linda Daniels of Newark suffered from congestive heart failure, and had been on hospice care in her home since April, according to early reports from News 12. The 68-year-old, who family says remained "in good spirits" depended on an oxygen tank powered by electricity to breathe. However, her local electric provider, Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G), shut off power to her home on Thursday morning around 10:00 a.m.
Daniels' home quickly became "brutally hot" and she rapidly used up her back-up tank of oxygen trying to breathe. At that point, Daniels' family called emergency services, who arrived at the home, but left a short time later for reasons unknown. Daniels died an hour after the medical team departed.
According to CBS 46, Daniels' two children and granddaughter say they don't know why PSEG cut off Daniels' electricity. They say Daniels did have an outstanding balance with the power company, but that they had been making payments to bring it current.
According to NJ 1015, PSE&G spokesperson told reporters that Daniels' account had been in arrears for months, that the company had repeatedly tried to reach the family about the overdue balance, and that the company had not been informed that Daniels had medical issues.
State regulations prohibit utility companies from cutting services for non-payment if a medical emergency exists. If Daniels' family could prove they had provided the utility company with information about her illness and the necessity of an electric powered oxygen tank, the provider would be in violation for shutting off her power and subjecting Daniels to the heat in her condition.
"We're saddened to hear that Ms. Daniels passed away yesterday. We extend our sincere condolences to her family," Karen A. Johnson said.
KMOV 4 reported that the power to Daniels' home was restored Friday morning, but noted that the grieving family still claims they don't understand why her service was interrupted. Daniels' son showed News 12 reporters bank records confirming a payment had been made to PSE&G two days before the power was cut off.
Johnson maintains the company followed standard protocol and did nothing illegal:
"PSE&G carefully follows state procedures for customers with special circumstances that are taken into consideration when service termination decisions are being made. After the disconnection occurred and we were notified that the customer had medical issues, we began the process to reconnect the service. We are reviewing our records to determine what transpired."New Jersey utility customers who have medical or financial issues can obtain help from a variety of sources, according to the Board of Public Utilities. Some provide bill-paying assistance to customers who are experiencing a financial crisis, who need assistance paying for heat or medically required cooling expenses, who are below the federal poverty level, or who are eligible for energy, phone, and water bill support or special annual benefits for seniors and persons with disabilities.