Several hundred people including Prime Minister Helen Clark packed a church funeral service on Wednesday for a woman who died after a utility company cut power to her home in New Zealand's largest city, apparently leading to her death.
Folole Muliaga, 44, who needed an electric oxygen pump to breathe, died two hours after the electricity at her Auckland home was cut off by Mercury Energy over a USD 122 unpaid bill.
Her death prompted outrage in New Zealand toward the power company, and Clark yesterday promised the government would tighten regulations to ensure utilities consulted with welfare services to better protect the elderly, infirm and other vulnerable people.
The late teacher's coffin, draped in a white cloth and bearing a wreath of red and white flowers, was carried into the church in Auckland by 12 pallbearers, followed by her husband and four children.
Among mourners were Mercury chief executive James Moulder, the chief executive of Mercury's parent company Mighty River Power Doug Heffernan, and company chairwoman, Carole Durbin.
The trio visited Muliaga's home last Friday to offer condolences to the family.
The family appreciated the gesture but still holds Mercury Energy responsible for Muliaga's death, family spokesman Brenden Sheehan said afterward.
State-owned Mercury has insisted it was not aware Muliaga depended on the machine to survive.
Muliaga's family claim the technician who cut the power was told she needed the oxygen machine to stay alive.