HAZEL PARK (WWJ) – Consumers Energy has been ordered to file a report by March 31 after a Vietnam veteran died of hypothermia in his home after the heat was shut off.
Hazel Park Police Chief Martin Barner said 69-year-old John Skelley was discovered unresponsive, huddled under blankets in front of a space heater at around 8 a.m. on Feb. 1.
Gas at the home, on West Pearl Street, was cut by the utility on Jan. 19.
“Now, the officers that originally responded indicated that it wasn’t, you know, like freezing in the house,” said Barner. “I mean, it was cool, but…I mean, the last thing that went through their minds was that the individual had froze to death.”
Although Skelley was ill, Barner said, suffering from throat cancer and COPD, the medical examiner ruled hypothermia was a factor in his demise.
AccuWeather said the high temperature was 18 with a low of 2 degrees on the day he died.
Consumer’s Energy spokesperson Debra Dodd says Skelley’s roommate had requested service at the home in November, but he owed nearly $760 and had fallen behind on a payment plan.
“We sent him three shutoff notices in December, and tried calling him but there was no phone number on record,” Dodd said; but no one knocked on the door when service was shut off.
“When we do go to disconnect service, we go right to the meter now,” Dodd explained. “It’s much safer for our employees because of the possibility of, you know, threats of violence.”
The roommate told police he had tried to get help from an organization in paying the bill, but was turned down because there were no children in the home. Barner said police have been unable to confirm that.
The group Hangin’ With the Heroes helping to pay for Skelley’s funeral services.
For those who would like to make a donation, checks made payable to Ferndale Elks may be sent to Ferndale Elks Lodge, 22856 Woodward, Ferndale 48220. In the memo portion of the check, write Hangin’ With the Heroes or John Skelley.
Consumers offers programs to assist those who are having trouble paying their bills. The utility urges customers in need not to wait for a shutoff notice, but instead to call the company immediately. Michigan residents may also dial 211 to be directed to an agency that may be able to help.