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Lawsuit filed against ERCOT, CenterPoint after Texas man dies of hypothermia during power outage

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A Houston family is in mourning after their loved one died of hypothermia during last week's power outages. Janet Shamlian reports on their loss and how they're trying to cope.

Video Transcript

ANTHONY MASON: The president travels to Texas this morning to see how millions are recovering from a deadly cold snap. Texans shivered for days after snow and cold knocked out power and water and damaged homes across the state. Dozens of people died. Janet Shamlian spoke to one family that's planning a funeral for a loved one killed by the cold while also rebuilding their own lives. Janet, good morning.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Anthony, good morning to you. Beyond the burst pipes and the waterlogged homes, a devastating human toll. The deaths from hypothermia. At least 15 of those here in the Houston area. And families telling these heartbreaking stories of how their loved ones lost their lives.

ISAAC IBARRA: I'll miss his phone calls. I never thought I would.

JANET SHAMLIAN: When Isaac Ibarra couldn't reach his brother Gilbert during the winter storm, he went to the 60 year old's garage apartment, where he found Gilbert dressed in layers on the floor. The medical examiner reports hypothermia as the cause of death. Gilbert Rivera was mentally disabled, his nephew Lawrence says, but lived independently.

LAWRENCE IBARRA: I don't think I would have ever thought anybody dying of hypothermia in Houston, Texas.

JANET SHAMLIAN: Gilbert's death came as Lawrence and Isaac's homes were damaged by burst pipes. They're now recovering from their own disasters and planning a funeral. Gilbert's sister has filed suit against CenterPoint Energy and ERCOT, which manages the Texas power grid.

What is your goal going into this as you pursue legal action?

LAWRENCE IBARRA: Our goal is for this not to happen to other people. Our goal is for other people to be able to have power during, not just winter storms, but also during floods if possibility. Just everybody can stay safe, and stay, you know, well-being in their own homes. And be able to be safe. We hope that our government and local government can actually help make this never happen again.

JANET SHAMLIAN: ERCOT says it hasn't reviewed the lawsuit. A spokesman for CenterPoint declined comment to a Texas TV station. ERCOT is under fire for its handling of the crisis. Texas lawmakers challenged executives Thursday on their response to the outages.

BRANDON CREIGHTON: This is the largest train wreck in the history of deregulated electricity.

JANET SHAMLIAN: ERCOT claims it has sovereign immunity. That would give it some protection from lawsuits. The Texas Supreme Court will decide that later this year. And as the President and First Lady spend a good part of the day here in Houston, they will also be visiting the FEMA mega site that is vaccinating up to 6,000 people a day. Gale.

GAYLE KING: All right, Janet, thank you very much.