Candle factory employees told they’d be fired if they left work early: report

(NEXSTAR) – Employees at the candle factory destroyed in a tornado Friday told NBC News they wanted to leave when they heard warning sirens go off, but were told they’d be fired for leaving their shifts early.

The Mayfield Consumer Products factory in Western Kentucky was leveled by the tornado late Friday night. Employees were on site working the overnight shift manufacturing scented candles.

Workers said they had been told to huddle in a central hallway area, the strongest part of the building, as the storm approached. Kentucky’s governor said Sunday the ferocity of the storm was so great that there was nowhere safe to hide inside the plant.Search are rescue crews work at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory early Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021 in Mayfield, Ky. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing several people overnight. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP)MAYFIELD, KENTUCKY – DECEMBER 12: Homes and business are reduced to rubble after a tornado ripped through the area two days prior, on December 12, 2021 in Mayfield, Kentucky. Multiple tornadoes touched down in several Midwest states late evening December 10 causing widespread destruction and leaving more than 80 people dead. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)Heavy damage is seen in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky, after a tornado swept through the area. Radar data indicates that a single tornado may have tracked more than 250 miles from Arkansas into Kentucky. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Gett)TOPSHOT – Emergency workers search what is left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. – Tornadoes ripped through five US states overnight, leaving more than 70 people dead Saturday in Kentucky and causing multiple fatalities at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois that suffered “catastrophic damage” with around 100 people trapped inside. The western Kentucky town of Mayfield was “ground zero” of the storm — a scene of “massive devastation,” one official said. (Photo by John Amis / AFP) (Photo by JOHN AMIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Emergency workers search what is left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. – Tornadoes ripped through five US states overnight, leaving more than 70 people dead Saturday in Kentucky and causing multiple fatalities at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois that suffered “catastrophic damage” with around 100 people trapped inside. The western Kentucky town of Mayfield was “ground zero” of the storm — a scene of “massive devastation,” one official said. (Photo by John Amis / AFP) (Photo by JOHN AMIS/AFP via Getty Images)Rick Vincent, of Newaygo, Mich., reads a sign placed on a pile of building rubble as he stops work at the end of the day, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Mayfield, Ky. Vincent, a retired teacher, has come to Mayfield on his own to volunteer to help in the cleanup effort after tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across several states Friday, killing multiple people. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Emergency workers search what is left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. – Tornadoes ripped through five US states overnight, leaving more than 70 people dead Saturday in Kentucky and causing multiple fatalities at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois that suffered “catastrophic damage” with around 100 people trapped inside. The western Kentucky town of Mayfield was “ground zero” of the storm — a scene of “massive devastation,” one official said. (Photo by John Amis / AFP) (Photo by JOHN AMIS/AFP via Getty Images)Martin Bolton (L) and shop owner Danny Wagner try to shut off a leaking gas meter after his automobile repair shop was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. Tornadoes ripped through half a dozen states overnight Friday into Saturday, leaving at least 50 people feared dead in a devastated city in Kentucky and around 100 trapped in a partially collapsed Amazon warehouse in Illinois. (Photo by John Amis/Agence France Presse/AFP via Getty Images)Dog owner Derrick Starks, left, Chris Buchanan, center and Niki Thompson, right, both from neighboring counties, attempt to rescue Cheyenne from a tornado-damaged home in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing dozens of people overnight. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)A woman searches for valuables amidst the remnants of a home on Saturday, Dec.11, 2021 following a tornado. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)Heavy damage is seen in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky, after a tornado swept through the area. Radar data indicates that a single tornado may have tracked more than 250 miles from Arkansas into Kentucky. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)Martin Bolton (L) and shop owner Danny Wagner try to shut off a leaking gas meter after his automobile repair shop was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. Tornadoes ripped through half a dozen states overnight Friday into Saturday, leaving at least 50 people feared dead in a devastated city in Kentucky and around 100 trapped in a partially collapsed Amazon warehouse in Illinois. (Photo by John Amis/Agence France Presse/AFP via Getty Images)A large semi trailer is flipped over and pushed against a building in Bowling Green, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing at least six people overnight as a storm system tore through a candle factory in Kentucky, an Amazon facility in Illinois and a nursing home in Arkansas. (AP Photo/Dylan T. Lovan)Emergency vehicles stage outside an Amazon fulfillment center after it was heavily damaged when a strong thunderstorm moved through the area Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in Edwardsville, Illinois. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

“It appears most were sheltering in the place they were told to shelter,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “I hope that area was as safe as it could be, but this thing got hit directly by the strongest tornado we could have possibly imagined.”

A company spokesperson said Sunday that eight of the 110 workers on the overnight shift Friday are confirmed dead and another eight are missing. More than 90 have now been accounted for, making the death toll lower than some had feared hours earlier.

“Many of the employees were gathered in the tornado shelter and after the storm was over they left the plant and went to their homes,” said Bob Ferguson, the company spokesperson. “With the power out and no landline they were hard to reach initially.”

The factory employs many people in and around Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 in Kentucky’s southwest corner. It is Graves County’s third-biggest employer, according to the county’s website. Even some inmates at the county jail worked there.

Scented candles made in the plant eventually found their way onto the shelves of prominent retailers like Bath & Body Works.

 

 

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