Kyanna Parsons Perez, the best known Mayfield survivor, used her Facebook account to seek help and to document the devastating Dec. 10-11, tornado outbreak in Kentucky.
Kyanna Parsons Perez was one of 100 employees inside a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, when a tornado whipped through town. The Mayfield Consumer Products’ candle factory had been active 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because Christmastime is the critical time in the candle industry. There were few buildings left standing in all of Mayfield.
The candle factory was leveled. It had been a fixture in the town for more than twenty years.
“It was extremely scary,” said Kyanna Parsons Perez, about her experience, when interviewed on Today. “Everything happened so fast. They had us in the area where you go in case there’s a storm, and we were all there. Then, the lights got to flickering, and then all of a sudden, we felt a gust of — we could feel the wind. Then, my ears kind of started popping, you know, as they would as if you’re on a plane.”
The AP has described the streets of Mayfield as lined by ”twisted metal sheeting, downed power lines, and wrecked vehicles.” The buildings left standing are without windows or roofs.
From inside the destroyed Mayfield Candle Factory, Kyanna Parsons Perez remained calm and livestreamed her situation to the world.
In the first livestream, she said, “We are trapped. Please ya’ll get us some help. We are at the candle factory in Mayfield …The wall is stuck on me. No one can get to us.” People can be heard in the background screaming as she is saying this.
There was a second, longer livestreamed video, in which she can be heard assuring her friends and co-workers “we’re going to be fine” and encourages them to sing “Happy Birthday” to her. At about 7:23 in this video, posted to Facebook, the phone scans about and the viewer gets a sense of the debris enveloping them.
She was trapped there for two hours. Given the debris on top of her, she was one of the last to be rescued.
Kyanna Parsons Perez also confirmed, in her interview with Today, reports that there were workers from the Graves County Jail at the factory when it collapsed. She could not shed light on the question of inmate or jail staff casualties.
“They had some prisoners working there from the Graves County Jail,” Kyanna Parsons Perez said. “And when I tell you some of those prisoners were working their tails off to get us out … They could of used that moment to try to run away or anything. They did not. They were there (and) they were helping us.”
A Graves County Jail spokesperson specified that seven inmates from the jail were working at the candle factory. They are all said to be accounted for. None have died, but some have life-threatening injuries, according to WFPL. The jail deputy that was supervising the inmates has died.
Gov. Andy Beshear, at one of his news conferences on the rescue efforts, described the debris in the course of explaining why rescues at the Mayfield Candle Factory have proven so difficult.
“I think the largest loss of life in this tornado event is and will be there, and it may end up being the largest loss of life in any tornado event in a single location in the state’s history,” Beshear said Saturday morning. “It’s heavy machinery … it’s the building that’s flattened. It’s cars from the parking lot that is on top of it. It’s huge metal drums, even ones with corrosive chemicals that were inside. It’s … pretty awful to witness.”
Chelsea Logue, another Mayfield survivor, was also working at the candle factory Friday night. Logue said there was a “really big boom and the building lifted up, swayed and crashed down.”
“All you could hear was screams from people,” Logue, told a reporter for the Courier Journal. Saturday afternoon. She was back at the site the following afternoon because she had lost her debit cards, Social Security card and IDs and she was hoping she could salvage something.
“I was trapped under a wall … by the grace of God I got out of there,” Logue said.