Machinery removes what is left of a wall at the Amazon Hub in Edwardsville, Ill., hit by a tornado Saturday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Kentucky authorities plan to investigate the Mayfield candle factory where eight people died during last week's tornado outbreak over questions about safety, Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday.
The probe comes after five employees at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory told NBC News that managers at the facility wouldn't let them leave as the deadly storm neared them. They said their supervisors threatened to fire them if they left during their shifts to take shelter at home.
Officials at the company denied the allegations.
"We've had a policy in place since COVID began," spokesman Bob Ferguson told NBC News. "Employees can leave any time they want to leave and they can come back the next day."
Speaking during a news conference Tuesday, Beshear said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reviews all deaths that take place within a workplace in the state. He said the fact that a probe is happening doesn't necessarily mean any wrongdoing took place.
"There will be a level of review that will take months," he said.
"What it should give people confidence in is that we will get to the bottom of what happened, and once the investigation is complete to be transparent about it."
Beshear said the death toll in the state stands at 74 Tuesday, but he expects the figure to increase because more than 100 people were unaccounted for. He said more than 550 members of the National Guard were searching through rubble for remaining victims and to determine the extent of the damage.
Across five states, at least 88 people died in the series of storms Friday night and into Saturday morning, USA Today reported.
The storms will "probably be one of the most devastating tornado events in U.S. history," Beshear said.
Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett said the electric grid in Mayfield, one of the hardest-hit areas in Friday's storms, was completely destroyed. He said it could take months to establish power there.
Nearly 25,000 customers were without power in Kentucky as of Tuesday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.