Hazel Park Vietnam vet dies of hypothermia after gas is shut off

Freya Keener says she lost contact with her father a few years ago. So, learning of his recent death was troubling enough, but learning the circumstances leading up to his passing was even more troubling.  

John Skelley, 69, was found wrapped in blankets and unresponsive in his home in Hazel Park, Mich. FOX 2 learned the home was without heat for weeks before Skelley died.

The utility company shut off the gas to the home on West Pearl Street on January 19th. 

After surviving in the heatless home for a few days, Skelley died Feb. 1. Hazel Park Police Chief Martin Barner says the cause of death was hypothermia and other medical conditions.

Chief Barner says he talked to the roommate who says he checked on Skelley around 8 p.m. Twelve hours later, Skelley was dead. 

"He was a Vietnam vet, so, for him to die like that is really sad," Keener says.

Debra Dodd with Consumers Energy says Skelley's roommate worked out a payment plan with the gas company in the fall but neglected to pay the remainder of the bill. Consumer Energy gave him three notices in December, but after not hearing from the man, Consumers cut the heat on January 19th.

When FOX 2 went to the home, nobody answered. Chief Barner said the roommate told him he did go to an agency for help.

"There was a possible attempt to get some assistance. We were told from ... the roommate that they were denied because there weren't any children in the house," Barner says. 

Neighbors say they wish they would have known.

There were  a couple space heaters found at the house but because Skelley had throat cancer and COPD, he wasn't strong enough to survive the frigid temperatures.

"We went over there last night to try to get some of his stuff and they didn't have any lights either. It's a sad situation," Keener says.

Consumers wants to reminds people not to wait for a shutoff notice. Call the company immediately if you need help. You can always call 211. That will direct you to a specific agency that can help you pay your energy bill before it's too late. 

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