winter storm

Family of Deep Ellum Vendor Known as Cotton Candy Man Files Suit Against ERCOT, Oncor

Leobardo Torres Sanchez, who was known as the Cotton Candy Man for the sweets he sold in Deep Ellum, was found dead in his home during the winter storm

The family of a Dallas man who died in the February winter storm have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Oncor and ERCOT, alleging negligence.

The family of a man who died in his Dallas home during the February winter storm have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ERCOT and Oncor alleging negligence.

At least 111 people died in the storm, including three in Dallas County and two in Collin County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The suit, which was filed March 16 in Dallas County, seeks relief of more than $1 million for the estate of Leobardo Torres Sanchez, and names his wife, Rosa Leon Chaves, and daughter, Miriam Torres Leon.

Torres Sanchez, who was known as the Cotton Candy Man for the sweets he sold to crowds in Deep Ellum, was found dead in his Old East Dallas.

The suit said Torres Sanchez, 60, was bundled under blankets to keep warm as temperatures dropped and had a heater, but it was useless.

"With no electricity to provide heat, temperatures in the living quarters plummeted," the suit states. "As a result, Mr. Torres Sanchez would become hypothermic and he would not survive this storm."

The Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office has not yet determined a cause of death for Torres Sanchez, whose remains have since arrived in Mexico.

"He was not just beloved merely because he sold cotton candy, he had a warm, kind presence that made people happy to see him," the suit said.

Leobardo Torres Sanchez was a fixture in Deep Ellum, selling cotton candy on the street. He died in his residence during the winter storm.

The suit alleges negligence on the part of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, and Oncor and states they "had a duty and failed to 'make all reasonable efforts to prevent interruptions of service' and 'to make reasonable provisions to manage emergencies resulting from failure of service.' "

In a statement, Oncor said it was unable to comment further due to pending litigation.

"We are heartbroken by the devastating struggles that our customers and all of Texas endured during the recent power emergency," the statement said. "It is important to note that Oncor does not generate or produce electricity."

ERCOT said in an email that it is unable to comment on pending litigation.

Sanchez was one of about four million Texans without power after ERCOT issued a directive for transmission utilities, such as Oncor, to shed load in order to maintain the integrity of the state's electric grid.

ERCOT, the nonprofit that oversees the grid that powers about 90% of the state, has said Texas was 4 minutes and 37 seconds away from a blackout that could have lasted months.

Why were Texans caught off guard by the massive power outages during February's winter storm?

Oncor initially told customers early Feb. 15 that the blackouts would be rolling and that they typically last for 15 to 45 minutes. As minutes stretched into hours without power and the outages did not rotate, the utility revised its message on the duration of the outages.

The lawsuit said ERCOT and Oncor failed to tell customers that they would be without power for days and communicated that blackouts would be rolled, leading many to shelter in place. The power was not "rolled" at Sanchez's home, according to the suit.

At least four other wrongful death lawsuits related to the winter storm have been filed against Oncor. Two of the lawsuits accuse the utility of failing to provide accurate information about the outages so that people could make other arrangements.

The Torres Sanchez lawsuit also alleged that ERCOT failed to heed warnings to weatherize systems to withstand the cold.

Close to 49% of the state's power generators were knocked offline during the storm, leading to demand that far outpaced supply as residents experienced subfreezing temperatures that lasted more than 70 hours.

ERCOT conducts spot-checks at some plants to ensure they are ready for winter, but lacks the power to penalize plants when deficiencies are found.

In the aftermath of the storm, six ERCOT board members, including the chairman and vice-chairman, have resigned and CEO Bill Magness was fired. DeAnn Walker, the chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, which has oversight of ERCOT, also stepped down.

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