Jail Inmates Help Rescue Tornado Victims at Kentucky Candle Factory: They Were 'Working Their Tails Off'

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said about 40 of the 110 people working in the factory at the time of the natural disaster had been rescued as of Sunday morning

An aerial view of debris and structural damage is seen at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory as search and rescue operations underway in Mayfield, Kentucky on December 11, 2021.
Photo: Tayfun CoÅkun/Anadolu Agency via Getty

A group of inmates from the Graves County jail joined the rescue efforts at a candle factory in Kentucky that collapsed on Friday night after a massive tornado, per one employee.

Kyanna Parsons-Perez, who works at the Kentucky Candle Factory in Mayfield, told Weekend TODAY that some of the inmates "were working their tails off to get us out."

"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."

In a Sunday morning interview with Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said about 40 of 110 Kentuckians working in the factory at the time of the natural disaster had been rescued. The majority of those working there, he said, were residents of Mayfield.

Beshear, 44, said he is unsure if anyone else will be found alive at the factory.

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"I'm not sure that we're going to see another rescue," he told Tapper, 52. "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."

The governor also said it was his understanding that the facility indeed had a tornado plan in place and that most workers were able to shelter in what was considered 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 said.

Workers toil through the destruction at Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado with workers inside, in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021.
John Amis/AFP via Getty

Beshear said over 80 people have died following what he called "the deadliest tornado event" in the Commonwealth's history. But he expects the death toll to "exceed" 100 people and that the recovery process has been "slow."

"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," he told Tapper.

Beshear added, "[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."

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During her appearance on Weekend TODAY, Parsons-Perez walked the hosts through her "extremely scary" experience: "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."

After getting rocked around by the gales, Parsons-Perez said "everything came down on us." Afterward, she said, "all you heard was screams."

After calling 911 for help, Parsons-Perez said she decided to go live on Facebook. Parsons-Perez said that she hoped doing so would help keep people calm as she attempted to get help as fast as possible.

"So [I thought], '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," she added.

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