Autopsy says Northern California man’s death wasn’t caused by PG&E power shutoff

A Northern California man died Wednesday approximately 12 minutes after power was cut to his home and the surrounding area, fire officials in the El Dorado County town of Pollock Pines said Friday. However, an autopsy said the outage wasn’t the cause of his death.

The man was found unresponsive in his home wearing his oxygen supply equipment, the El Dorado County Fire Protection District said. The district provides fire protection to most of the county, which is directly east of Sacramento County.

The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office identified the man as Robert Mardis, 67, and said an autopsy completed Friday afternoon determined he died of severe coronary artery atherosclerosis.

“Mardis also had a clinical history of (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease),” the sheriff’s office said. “The investigation into this death has concluded and this case is considered closed.”

Still, the man’s daughter said she believed the outage contributed to his death.

“The power had just gone off so he was going to his portable oxygen machine,” Aldea told the Los Angeles Times. “We weren’t even able to get to the generator it happened so quick.”

Before the autopsy results were announced, Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s been highly critical of the embattled service provider’s latest actions, weighed in Friday morning on the death.

“It’s devastating beyond words,” Newsom said. “Losing a family member is horrific.”

Fire personnel responded to the call between 3:40 a.m. and 3:45 a.m. on Buckhorn Road, said Fire Chief Lloyd Ogan. Firefighters found Mardis, unresponsive on the floor of his home.

They performed CPR advanced life support measures, including the use of a defibrillator, but Mardis could not be revived, Ogan said. Firefighters worked by flashlight because of the power outage.

Mardis was wearing a nasal cannula, used to deliver oxygen to the nose, and was hooked up to a PPAP machine, he said. The device optimizes positive airway pressure to treat sleep apnea and other breathing disorders.

Aldea told media outlets that she would likely not pursue litigation over the matter, but she said the “outage didn’t help.”

The family told CBS13 that before the outage, Mardis’ daughter brought her parents to her house where she had oxygen tanks for Mardis. The man’s medical device required electricity to run, but the Aldea said the family was ready with equipment that was battery-powered. Then the power was cut at 3:30 a.m., they said.

“We were all asleep, we heard my mom scream. She was crying,” she told Fox40. “My dad went down in her arms, he was going for this oxygen machine.”

“It wasn’t enough … it still wasn’t enough,” she told CBS13. “We took every precaution we could take, and it still was not enough.”

Mardis worked as a gardener at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills.

PG&E spokeswoman Brandi Merlo said Friday afternoon the utility did not have any details about the death. The company issued a similar statement hours later, directing questions to authorities.

Calls and emails by The Bee to the coroner, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and Mardis’ family were not returned Friday.

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Molly Sullivan covers crime, breaking news and police accountability for The Bee. She grew up in Northern California and is an alumna of Chico State.