Falling behind in your bills can be deadly, as the tragic story of a Detroit family shows.
A 46-year-old father and this three children are dead from carbon monoxide poisoning after their local energy company cut off their power, prompting the family to use a generator that poisoned them with carbon monoxide.
And the family’s power company says a bureaucratic “glitch” caused them to shut the power off when it shouldn’t have been.
Vaughn Reed, 46, and his three children, Markeisha, 17, DeMarco, 12, and DeMarte, six, died in the early morning hours of Friday from carbon monoxide emitted by a generator in the basement of the family’s two-story home on Detroit’s west side.
They had put the gas-powered generator into use when power supplier DTE Energy cut power to the house in late June, one day after Reed filed for bankruptcy.
On Thursday night, the family had sealed all the windows to run the air conditioning, the Detroit Free Press reports. By the time the house began to fill with carbon monoxide at around 3 a.m., it was too late.
Spokespeople for DTE say the company had been notified of the bankruptcy filing, which would have prompted them to restore power. But the address listed with the bankruptcy notification was incorrect — it was Reed’s mother’s address — so power was not restored to the proper house, DTE says.
“The address is the primary component used in that process,” Eileen Dixon, a spokeswoman for DTE, told the Detroit News. “This just underscores how important it is that people let us know when [they] are in trouble.”
That explanation brought “outrage” from friends and relatives of the Reeds, the News reports.
“That’s crazy,” said Lisa Johnson, a longtime friend of the family. She added that DTE needed to do more homework before shutting off utilities. “DTE needs to get it together,” said Johnson of Melvindale.
Owens said the company’s explanation didn’t make sense, especially since the utility bill on their home had always been sent to the Albion address and billed to Reed.
“I’m upset,” said Owens, 36. “He lost his job and he did the best he (could).”
According to the local Fox affiliate, Marquetta Owens-Reed, the mother of the family, has been hospitalized but is expected to recover. An impromptu memorial has formed outside the family’s home.