PSE&G: We notified grandma 26 times before we cut power & she died
NEWARK — PSE&G says it made more than two dozen attempts to notify Linda Daniels — the 68-year-old woman who died of heart failure hours after her power was shut off — that her account was "severely in arrears.
"While there will be a complete investigation of this matter, our records indicate that this account was severely in arrears and we made at least 26 attempts to notify the customer since January, 2018, including two visits to the residence prior to the disconnection," the utility said in a statement on Monday. An earlier version of the same statement had put the number of attempts at 15.
Desiree Washington has said Daniels, her mother relied on an electric-powered oxygen tank to breathe, and she died of heart failure Thursday.
Her son showed News 12 New Jersey a bank statement showing a $500 payment made toward the bill. The utility's would not disclose to New Jersey 101.5 if the payment was received and declined to answer additional questions about the case.
PSE&G also said a review of its records back to 2016 shows "no indication by the customer of a medical condition in the home prior to disconnection." Once it was made aware of Daniels' situation, the company said, it "began the process to restore service."
Under New Jersey law, power shouldn't be cut for a customer eligible for the "Winter Termination Program" — under which an elderly or low-income customer makes good-faith payments as they're able to do so — if the temperature is more than 95 degrees. Temperatures in Newark Thursday were in the low 90s.
If a customer is eligible for the Winter Termination Program under 14:3-7.12A, and the high temperature is forecast to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit or more at any time during the following 48 hours, an electric utility shall not discontinue residential service to a customer for reasons of nonpayment of a delinquent account, failure to pay a cash security deposit or guarantee, or failure to comply with a deferred payment agreement. The utilities shall rely on forecasts obtained from national weather stations covering their utility facilities, including the Newark Weather Station and the Atlantic City Airport Weather Station." The regulation also notes the customer is not relieved of any financial obligation to the electrical utility providing the service.Family members told NJ.com the power was cut at 10 a.m. on Thursday, and Daniels died at 4:23 p.m. in her hot apartment. The utility told the family it would send a truck to restore power, but the truck didn't show up until Friday, the family told the news site.
"When notified of a medical situation, PSE&G carefully follows all procedures and regulations to ensure the safety of the customer. We never would have disconnected service had we been informed of the circumstances," the utility wrote.
According to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities customers have the right to a written notice of termination 10 days prior to discontinuance of service.
"We are carefully reviewing everything that happened around this terrible incident. In the meantime, we urge customers who are having trouble paying their bills, and especially those with a medical condition, to contact PSE&G right away," the company said.
"Residential service may be shut-off, after proper notice, Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A utility may not shut-off residential service on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or a holiday or the day before a holiday or if a valid medical emergency exists in your household," according to the BPU.
The agency also urges elderly or low-income customers having trouble paying their bill to request enrollment in a budget plan "in accordance with your ability to pay."
"Everyone at PSE&G is saddened by this terrible tragedy and we extend our sincere condolences to the family," the company said in its statement.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report