Jail Inmates Help Rescue Victims From Kentucky Factory Destroyed By Tornado

Photo: Twitter
Kentucky tornado wreckage

After a massive tornado struck Kentucky, a group of inmates from the Graves County Jail joined the rescue efforts at a candle factory that collapsed on Friday night.

Dozens of workers had been trapped in the factory during the tornado leading to the group of inmates who were enrolled in a work-release program to join the rescue efforts to save the employees trapped under the rubble.

Kyanna Parsons-Perez, who works at the Kentucky Candle Factory, said that the inmates were “working their tails off to get us out,” during an interview with the “Today” show.

Graves County Jail inmates worked tirelessly to save people from the Kentucky tornado.

“They were helping,” Parsons-Perez said. “And 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.”

Graves County Jailer George Workman said that the inmates began working just last week, and were low-security, low-level offenders enrolled in the work-release program to earn wages that would help them pay fines and jail fees.

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“It helps [incarcerated people] to build up some money, if they play it right, whenever they get out so they can have their fines paid off and also have a good start on some savings to where they can get started on the outside,” Workman said. 

There had been 40 to 110 Kentucky residents working in the factory at the time of the tornado, and the majority were people living in Mayfield, according to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. 

Gov. Beshear says it's unlikely that anyone else will be found alive in the rubble of the Kentucky factory.

“I'm not sure that we're going to see another rescue,” he told Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union. “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 also noted that the factory did have a tornado plan in place with most of the workers able to shelter in the safest part of the building.

“But 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,” Beshear added.

During her interview on the “Today” show, Parsons-Perez spoke about the “extremely scary” experience while working in the factory that day.

“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,” she explained.

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Parsons-Perez recalls “everything coming down” around the workers, saying that all she could hear around her were screams.

She called 911, but decided to go live on Facebook, saying that by doing so it would hopefully calm people down as she attempted to get help as fast as possible.

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“'If I went live, more people would come to try to help us and get us out of there.' But it was absolutely the most terrifying thing I've ever experienced in my life,” Parsons-Perez said.

However, there had been one inmate working at the Kentucky Candle Factory that escaped from the hospital after being released.

Francisco Starks is allegedly on the run after leaving Grave County Jail.

Kentucky State Police say they are looking for Starks, 44, after he was taken to the Jackson Purchase Medical Center shortly after being rescued from the building.

Police say they were alerted of his disappearance at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday where authorities believe he either left on foot or got a ride after no one noticed he was an inmate as patients came in and out of the hospital.

There were eight casualties, including a jail employee that was supervising the inmates at the factory.

“We lost 1 of our staff members,” a post shared on the Graves County Jail’s Facebook Page read on Saturday night.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.