Milwaukee man dies in weekend power outage; oxygen unit failed

Power outages can be life-threatening, and for one Milwaukee man, it was. An 84-year-old man died over the weekend in the midst of a outage that affected more than 80,000 people.

The 84-year-old is identified by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office as Alton Smith.

The medical examiner's report indicates Milwaukee firefighters were called to Smith's residence on N. Lovers Lane Road in Milwaukee shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday. 

We Energies said on Lovers Lane, a tree fell on a power line leaving the neighborhood in the dark for almost 24 hours.

"Every county had damage. We’re talking downed trees," said Brendan Conway from We Energies. "Big big branches falling into our equipment."

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"Any instances where people are relying on electricity for some sort of medical appliance or device that is necessary for their health – of course, we are tremendously concerned when power is lost," said Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski.

The medical examiner's report says, "The apartment was fairly hot and had no power, possibly due to the severe storms that occurred last night." 

Officers spoke with neighbors of Smith who also confirmed the power had gone out around 10 p.m. Friday. One officer "stated that the decedent's apartment was hotter than the outside temperature," the report says. The temperature inside the apartment was also described as "uncomfortably hot."

Lipski emphasizes the importance of checking on loved ones, especially during a power outage or extreme weather. Emergency responders said there are steps you can take when you or someone you love loses power.

"I’d say a good daily visit for your elderly or your medically challenged neighbors or friends," said Lipski.

The medical examiner reports said a relative did check on Smith Friday night before the power was out.

Lipski said if your friend or family member is not responding, that's where they can come in to help.

"We can either come and try to assist in that scenario or get that person to a hospital where there are generator systems and whatnot," said Lipski.

We Energies said if this is you or someone you know who relies on medical equipment, then you need to have a backup plan during an outage. Things like a generator or someone you can stay with.

Firefighters said they're happy to do a wellness check on your loved one. You can call them or the police.

We Energies Spokesperson Brendan Conway said in a statement: 

"Our condolences go out to Mr. Smith’s family.

"The customer did not report a power outage to us, however the power line that serves his neighborhood was impacted when a tree fell on it. Power from that incident was fully restored around 6 p.m. Saturday. 

"We encourage all of our customers with critical medical equipment to have a backup plan in case they lose power due to an outage or an equipment failure in their home."