Employee who survived plant collapse: We shouldn’t have been at work
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - An employee who survived being buried for four hours beneath the rubble of the collapsed Mayfield Consumer Products plant in Mayfield, KY, tells News4 Investigates that the company had ample warning of severe weather and that the plant shouldn’t have been open during the tornadoes.
Isaiah Holt, who was flown by helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and is being treated for broken ribs and a damaged lung, spoke to News4 Investigates from his hospital room.
Holt showed News4 Investigates Snapchat videos he made while trapped alongside his brother and a fellow worker.
“I couldn’t move. I grabbed for my brother, he’s like, ‘I’ve got something on my neck. I can’t breathe,’ so I’m just like bro, stay calm,” Holt said.
Knowing his brother is now in an induced coma, Holt said the plant had ample warning that severe weather was coming.
“We shouldn’t have been at work. How many warnings do you need?” Holt said.
Darryl Johnson is asking the same question. Johnson’s sister, Janine, was killed when the plant collapsed.
“They’ve been forecasting the severity of the storms for several days. It’s too late for excuses. It’s too late for excuses,” Johnson said.
While severe weather had been forecast for days, News4 Investigates reviewed the forecasts by local NBC affiliate WPSD-TV in Paducah, KY.
At 8:44 p.m., a WPSD meteorologist warned Graves County, in which Mayfield stands, that they were in the path of the storm. The tornado hit at roughly 9:25 that evening.
News4 Investigates reached Bob Ferguson, spokesman for Mayfield Consumer Products, by phone Monday.
“The forecast was pretty grim that night. Why was the factory even open that night?” asked News4 Investigates.
“This was really an unprecedented act of God. If we had known this was going to happen, would we have protected our employees in different ways? Yes,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said they also have reviewed to see if any large employers, from Arkansas to Kentucky, remained open the night of the storms and found all decided to keep employees working.
Holt said after the first storm system moved through after 5 p.m., some employees stated they wanted to leave, but were told to return to work because that weather system had moved through.
“They didn’t care about us. They should have sent us home after the first one,” Holt said.
Ferguson said the company has a COVID policy that anyone can leave at any time.
While confirming that the plant did not have a storm shelter, Ferguson said that during both storm systems, employees were given ample time to move to a central hallway.
“It would be inaccurate to say that the employees were not given warning,” Ferguson said.
NBC News reported that factory employees were threatened to not leave during the tornado or risk losing their jobs, but Holt did not tell that to News4 Investigates.
Ferguson denied that employees were told not to leave.
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