Elderly Vietnam vet with throat cancer freezes to death after his gas is shut off

The state of Michigan has ordered a report from Consumers Energy, after a 69 year-old Vietnam veteran froze to death after the company shut off his heat during one of the coldest months of the year.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the company shut off Jack Shelley’s gas on January 19 and he was later found dead of hypothermia on February 1.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Utility companies are prohibited from shutting off heat in homes that have residents aged 65 and older from Nov. 1 to March 31, according to Michigan Public Service Commission spokeswoman Judy Palnau. Consumers Energy does have a shutoff protection program for people 65 and older.

“That doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay; that just means they can’t be shut off,” Palnau said. “But other folks could find themselves in shutoff situations, but before they have a problem, they should contact their utility company. There are several programs that they can get on that can protect against shutoffs.”

John Skelley in an undated family photo.

But the company said it was not aware that Skelley was living in the home. According to the company’s records, the service was in the name of Joseph Mixen, who requested natural gas service on Nov. 18, 2014. Mixen had previously lived at the home between March 2012 and May 2013 and had an outstanding balance of $760.28.

“It’s very unfortunate,” spokeswoman for Consumers Energy Deborah Dodd said. “We had no idea that anyone else was living with him. … We need our customers to let us know if they’re having problems, the sooner the better. We can’t help you if we don’t know you need help.”

A metro Detroit-based organization that helps veterans, Hangin’ With the Heroes, has raised money to cover Skelley’s funeral and will give him a full military burial. He is survived by two children.

Sky Palma

Before launching DeadState back in 2012, Sky Palma has been blogging about politics, social issues and religion for over a decade. He lives in Los Angeles and also enjoys Brazilian jiu jitsu, chess, music and art.

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