Calif. officials say man using oxygen tank died within minutes of PG&E power shutoff

The family of a northern California man who died within minutes of power being cut to his home blamed the planned power outage for his death, as he required an oxygen tank to breathe, Fox40 reports

Fire officials from the El Dorado County town of Pollock Pine say the man, identified by Fox40 as 67-year-old Robert Mardis Sr., died approximately 12 minutes after PG&E cut power to his home on Wednesday.

His family members told reporters that Mardis used an oxygen tank because he suffered from COPD and congestive heart failure. Fire officials said he was wearing his oxygen mask when he was found unresponsive.

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Mardis was one of 2 million residents across central and northern California left without electricity after PG&E shut power off in anticipation of high dry winds that create perfect environments for wildfires.

The move has been highly controversial in the state. Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomCalifornia becomes first state to mandate later start times at public schools New California law bans school lunch debt shaming California governor signs law banning manufacture, sale of fur products MORE blamed the need for planned outages on the company's "greed" and "mismanagement." 

Mardis's family told Fox40 that his electric oxygen tank lost power while he was sleeping and he was trying to get his back-up, battery-operated oxygen tank when he lost consciousness. Family members reportedly tried performing CPR, but paramedics pronounced Mardis dead shortly after they arrived on the scene. 

In a statement to The Sacramento Bee, a PG&E spokeswoman said the company did not have details about the death and had not substantiated it.  

The Bee reports that Newsom called the death "devastating beyond words." 

“Losing a family member is horrific and to the extent this was the reason why, I hope that is investigated and I hope those responsible are held to account,” Newsom said.

The outage comes as PG&E is blamed for last year's Camp Fire, the largest wildfire in the state's history. The devastating fire resulted in the deaths of nearly 90 people and ultimately caused PG&E's bankruptcy as it pays billions in liability.