Families Mourn, Survivors Share Harrowing Accounts After Tornado Destroys Kentucky Candle Factory

TOPSHOT - People embrace as tornado damage is seen after extreme weather hit the region December 12, 2021, in Mayfield, Kentucky. - Dozens of devastating tornadoes roared through five US states overnight, leaving more than 80 people dead Saturday in what President Joe Biden said was "one of the largest" …
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Families and survivors mourn in the aftermath of the tornado that ripped through a Kentucky candle factory on Friday, where at least eight people were killed and another eight are missing, according to a report.

Joe Ward and his girlfriend Autumn Kirks had just started working at the factory weeks ago. The pair was saving money to purchase a home “for their combined eight children,” Today reports.

When Friday night’s tornado came roaring through Mayfield, the duo was working with more than 100 other employees.

Kirks said she was only ten feet from Ward when the tornado ripped through the factory. She made it out, but Ward did not.

“I had a savior,” Kirks told NBC News senior national correspondent Kate Snow on TODAY. “I don’t know who it was, but he lifted a concrete wall off me and three of my girls and got us out.”

Thirty-Seven-year-old Mark Saxton was also working at the factory. He showed up for his shift thirty minutes early as he always did and began carrying on business as usual once his shift started as a forklift driver, NBC reports.

A third tornado warning gave him the feeling his colleagues and he may be in danger. He opened a door and saw the massive twister.

“I started backing up,” he told NBC. He started to head to a “tornado-safe” hallway in the building, but the twister moved rapidly.

“Tiles and concrete started falling,” he said. “Everyone started running, so I just dropped to the ground. I got in a fetal position, and the concrete slab fell on top of me.”

“I really didn’t think I was going to make it,” he added. “If you see the people that were beside me… I can’t believe I’m even here.”

Mother Denise Cunnigham lost her son Devyn, 21, in the tragedy, TODAY reports. She told the outlet that no one should have been working on Friday. 

“They knew it was coming,” she told TODAY. “I’m more than angry. I think they should be held accountable for everything that’s happened to these families, for my son.”

CEO Tony Propes of Mayfield Consumer Products told the show that tornadoes were unpredictable, and an evacuation was not possible as the tragedy happened so quickly.

“If we believed that we could do anything differently, in hindsight, of course, I think all of us do something differently,” he said. “It is such a gamble to say leave, because the last thing you do, it says don’t get in your car, that’s what experts say.”

Bob Ferguson, a spokesman with Mayfield Consumer Products, said there have been eight confirmed deaths, while another eight remain missing, according to Reuters. 

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