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All Graves Co. jail inmates working in candle factory survived tornado

Aerial footage from WDRB Saturday shows the remains of a Mayfield, Ky. candle factory destroyed in a tornado.
Aerial footage from WDRB Saturday shows the remains of a Mayfield, Ky. candle factory destroyed in a tornado.

All seven people incarcerated at Graves County jail who worked at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory are alive.

The seven were among the dozens feared dead and injured after a massive tornado struck the factory overnight. However, an unnamed spokesperson using the Graves County Jail Facebook account told WFPL News the jail had “accounted for all inmates.” They said some inmates have injuries but they are “non-life threatening.”

Jail deputy Robert Daniel, who was guarding the jail workers, died in the candle factory, according to a Facebook post from the jail Sunday afternoon.

"He did his job honorably and professionally until the very end," the jail representative said.

Earlier on Sunday, Graves County Jailer George Workman said those who had been held at the county jail were now split between two nearby jails.

Workman said the work program at the candle factory had just started last week. The program was approved by the Kentucky Department of Corrections as a way to help reduce recidivism, Workman said.

“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. A portion of the earned wages goes towards fines and jail fees and the rest goes into individual’s canteen accounts at the jail, Workman said. “They haven’t really had a chance to get started.”

An 18-year-old factory worker told WFPL earlier Saturday he was buried in the rubble close to a man he believed was a corrections officer, and that the man was likely deceased. Jail officials also reported a staff person had died.

People incarcerated at the Calloway County Jail also participated in the work program at the factory. Calloway jail officials have not said whether anyone from the facility was at the factory that evening.

110 people were working the night shift at the factory when the tornado struck. Just 40 had been rescued as of Saturday evening, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. 

The company’s CEO, Troy Propes, could not be reached for comment, but posted a statement online Saturday evening.

“Our Mayfield, Kentucky facility was destroyed December 10, 2021, by a tornado, and tragically employees were killed and injured,” Propes wrote.

“We’re heartbroken about this, and our immediate efforts are to assist those affected by this terrible disaster. Our company is family-owned and our employees, some who have worked with us for many years, are cherished. We’re immediately establishing an emergency fund to assist our employees and their families.”

At least 80 people have been confirmed to have died from the storm across the state, according to Beshear on Sunday. But he believes the death toll will rise to more than 100.

This story has been updated to include the identity of the jail deputy who died, and comments from the jailer. 

Yasmine Jumaa and Jared Bennett contributed reporting for this story.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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