Intense Houston heat turns deadly

June 22, 2009 8:24:51 PM PDT
On Monday afternoon, the Harris County medical examiner confirmed that a man died last week in his southeast Houston home, which did not have air conditioning. The 56-year old man had other medical conditions that made him unable to handle the heat.

Herbert Gaston's brother and roommate found him dead inside the home last Monday. They say the air-conditioning had gone out the day before, and that it was sweltering inside.

"I said Herbert, Herbert," said Charles Gaston. "No answer."

When Charles Gaston came home from the grocery store Monday night, he said found his brother inside dead.

"I tried to wake him up," said Charles. "But I couldn't get him up."

Charles Gaston says he called 911 and tried CPR without luck.

The air-conditioning, which cools their rental home on the southeast side of town, went out Sunday. By the time investigators measured the temperature inside Monday night, he says it was sweltering.

The examiner told me it was about 113, I think," said Charles.

Herbert Gaston was a husband, father, grandfather and brother. The medical examiner's office says he had underlying health issues, like chronic lung disease and heart disease that, in addition to the heat, led to his death.

"Heat puts a tremendous strain on your heart," said Kathy Barton with the Houston Health Department.

Barton says anyone who finds themselves without air-conditioning should seek cooler shelter in a public building. On Monday, the city and Reliant Energy opened 'Beat the Heat' centers, where you can escape the temperatures and find out ways to protect your home from the heat.

Gaston's brother hopes those who don't have air conditioning will heed warnings, so that no one else falls victim to these temperatures.

The landlord had the AC unit fixed by Tuesday.

Reliant Energy has opened eight cooling centers in an effort to help residents to beat the heat. They are open Monday through Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

  • Acres Homes MSC, 6719 W. Montgomery Road
  • Denver Harbor MSC, 6402 Market St.
  • Fifth Ward MSC, 4014 Market St.
  • Magnolia MSC, 7037 Capital St.
  • Northeast MSC, 9720 Spaulding St.
  • Southwest MSC, 6400 High Star Dr.
  • Sunnyside MSC, 4605 Wilmington St.
  • West End MSC, 170 Heights Blvd.
Each of these Reliant Energy Beat the Heat Center will include adult and youth games, movies, snacks and water, as well monthly visits to the centers by Reliant Energy Home Energy Advisors, who will put on energy efficiency demonstrations and answer consumers' questions about ways to lower their electricity consumption. For specific information on the Beat the Heat Centers, or to schedule free rides to and from the Beat the Heat Centers, interested participants can call 713-497-2711.

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