A total of 100 people were working the night shift at the candle factory including seven inmates of Graves County jail.
A group of inmates from the Graves County jail helped with rescue efforts after four tornadoes hit Kentucky killing at least 100 people, reported Fox News. Kentucky Candle Factory in Mayfield was one of the worst affected with 8 workers dead and many believed to be trapped under the rubble. An employee at the candle factory said inmates of Graves County jail "were working their tails off to get us out." Kyanna Parsons-Perez was one of those in the building before it came down on her and the rest of the employees. " She managed to be rescued but many others were not lucky. The metal building collapsed on the workers and the search for survivors is ongoing. A total of 110 people were working the night shift at the factory when the tornado struck, said Governor Andy Beshear, before adding that 40 of them had been rescued.
Parsons-Perez can't thank the inmates who stepped up at the crucial moment. "They were helping," said Parsons-Perez. They had joined in to help those stuck under the rubble. "To see inmates — because you know they could have used that moment to try to run away or anything — they did not. They were there. They were helping us," added Parsons-Perez. The inmates were working at the factory as part of a work program designed to help them get “a fresh start on life” after jail, reported The Washington Post. According to Jailer George Workman, there were seven inmates at the factory working the night shift at the candle factory, which was working 24/7 to meet the demand ahead of Christmas. They were all alive and safe, confirmed WFPL.
Graves County Jail also confirmed that Robert Daniel, a jail deputy who was with the inmates at the factory, was killed. “He did his job honorably and professionally until the very end,” read a statement by Graves County Jail on Facebook. Among those who survived was 18-year-old Lathan Harpole. He had been working at the factory for only weeks when the disaster struck. He was buried under the rubble with another man and they dug their way upwards to safety. They reached the surface in 5 minutes and escaped with just a few scrapes. Many others didn't make it. Harpole wrote on Facebook that Daniel was badly hurt. “I helped one of the inmates out and he told me that the officer was stuck bad,” Harpole wrote in a comment. “I heard what sounded like rolling thunder, and I started running, and I looked back, the roof lifted up and came back down,” said Harpole. “I remember screaming out, ‘Scream if you need help,’ and all you could hear was people screaming from every direction.”
Graves County Jail officers are honoring Officer Robert Daniel. He was killed in the line of duty Friday night- monitoring inmates who were on work release at the candle factory. Inmates described Daniel as a hero, who risked his own life to move them to safety. pic.twitter.com/SRzw204cnl— Shay McAlister (@ShayMcAlisterTV) December 12, 2021
Governor Beshear had raised doubts if they would be any more survivors from the factory. "I'm not sure that we're going to see another rescue," he said. "I pray for it. It would be an incredibly welcome miracle. But I think it's been since 3:30 yesterday morning that we found a live person." Beshear added that most workers had sheltered in the safest part of the building but the strength of the tornado meant the building was flattened. "When you see the damage that this storm did — not just there, but across the area — I'm not sure there was a plan that would have worked," said Beshear, describing it as "the deadliest tornado event" in the Commonwealth's history.
"I know people can see the visuals, but that goes on for 12 blocks or more in some of these places. And it's going to take us time," said the governor. "[Do] you think you can go door to door to check on people and see if they're okay? There are no doors! The question is, is there somebody in the rubble of thousands upon thousands of structures. I mean, it is devastating."
Kyanna Parsons-Perez, the employee at the candle factory recalled the final moments before the tornado struck. "Everything happened so fast. They had us in the area where you go in case there's a storm, and we were all there and then the lights got to flickering and all of a sudden we felt a gust of [wind], we could feel the wind and then my ears kind of started popping as they would as if you were on a plane," said Parsons-Perez. "Everything came down on us. All you heard was screams." She called 911 and went on live on Facebook to seek help. "It was absolutely the most terrifying thing I've ever experienced in my life," she added.
This is a developing story, and we’ll update as we learn more. Information about the damage and death toll from the tornadoes is swiftly changing, and Upworthy is committed to providing the most recent and verified updates in our articles and reportage. However, considering the frequency in developments, some of the information/data in this article may have changed since the time of publication.