Survivors recount helping others escape tornado rubble
▶ Watch Video: Candle factory destroyed by tornado in Kentucky, killing eight workers
More than 100 workers at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory, in Mayfield, Kentucky, were making candles when a tornado tore through the building Friday night. It was part of one of the most devastating tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.
Workers say they were told to huddle in a hallway, which was the strongest part of the building, as the storm approached. They watched as the roof peeled away and the walls caved in. The company told CBS News at least eight of them were killed, and six other workers are still missing.
Workers told “CBS Mornings” lead national correspondent David Begnaud how they managed to survive being pinned underneath the collapsed building, and about their “hero” colleagues who pulled one another out of the rubble.
Barbara Tate, who’s worked at the Mayfield factory for two years, escaped the wreckage alongside her brother.
“They told us it was a tornado warning coming and everybody need to go for shelter,” she said. “All of a sudden, everything start caving in on everybody. Nobody’s seen it coming.
“Yes, it was a lot of stuff that fell on us, but we had to crawl, crawl like, you know, get on your knees and everything, crawl and try because we couldn’t move a certain way, or everything would fall on top of us,” Tate said.
Another survivor is Richard Padilla. He’d joined other workers in a central hallway area – the strongest part of the building – when the alarms sounded. He’s still in a lot of pain, after what he experienced.
“The ceiling blows up,” Padilla recalled. “In a couple of seconds after that, a wall [fell] above us, and then we were in a position very uncomfortable with a lot of things over us. And then, I finally saw somebody who was giving his hand to me.”
Felisa Lynn had only been working at the factory since September, and was also in that central hallway when the roof was ripped off and the walls collapsed.
“Both legs were twisted; my arms twisted,” Lynn said. “To release my feet, I have to let go my two shoes. There was a small light, and I climbed up myself.”
She limped out of the wreckage, and on video she recorded you can hear her repeatedly saying “thank you” to God for saving her.
She also credits Nelson Gonzalez, her supervisor, for rescuing her. He was the one who helped her free her legs so that she could get out.
“I was making sure that the people was next to me – I wasn’t going to leave them behind,” Gonzalez said. “I’m not going to let them down. They’re my families as well.”
Gonzalez and Padilla both recently moved here from Puerto Rico because they were looking for work, and the candle factory was desperate to hire seasonal workers. They were working the night shift along with Lynn and Tate, four of the 110 people who were inside the factory when it was hit.
Tate said, “I close my eyes and I see people hollering for help. So, I’m not doing good at all. It messes with a person when you see them and you can’t help anybody, [when] you’re trying to help yourself get out.”
Gonzalez is headed back to Puerto Rico today with his son, who worked the day shift, and told Begnaud he is not sure if he is coming back.
The owner of the company has started a GoFundMe account to raise money for the affected employees, and has kickstarted it with a $100,000 donation.