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Some Kentucky candle factory workers who survived tornado considering lawsuit against the company, lawyer says

At least eight people died in the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory.
Image: Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory
Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday. Timothy D. Easley / AP

MAYFIELD, Ky. — Some employees who survived a tornado that leveled their candle factory are considering taking legal action against the company, according to an attorney who is representing some of the workers.

The move by several injured Mayfield Consumer Products employees comes after five workers told NBC News that as the twister was bearing down on the city Friday their supervisors warned they could be fired if they tried to flee.

At least eight workers died, Kentucky officials have said.

In a news release, attorney Amos Jones said he has been retained by several of the survivors.

One of workers Jones represents is 20-year-old Elijah Johnson, who told NBC News earlier that he was working in the back of the building when several employees wanting to head home walked in to speak with supervisors.

Johnson said he asked to leave and was told he'd be fired.

“They should have let us go that night,” said Johnson, who is suffering from groin, neck and back pains. “I feel like I need proper representation.”

Jones said he is not identifying the other workers who have retained his services. Jones is working with Lexington-based lawyer William Davis.

McKayla Emery, 21, a candle factory worker who was severely injured when the tornado hit and suffered large burns across her legs, buttocks and forehead, told NBC News she has been in touch with Jones.

“I honestly don’t know how to feel about about everything since the tornado,” Emery said Wednesday after she was released from the hospital. “I haven’t really given it much thought. I haven’t even been home for 24 hours. There’s so much going on.”

Emery was also one of the workers who told NBC News that colleagues who wanted to leave work ahead of the tornado were mistreated.

Company spokesman Bob Ferguson declined to comment Wednesday. Earlier, Ferguson adamantly denied that managers had told employees that leaving their shifts meant risking their jobs. He said they follow guidelines of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Those protocols are in place and were followed,” he said.

Mayfield CEO Troy Propes told NBC News earlier this week that no one was forced to stay at the factory the night the tornado hit.

The company said Tuesday that it is “retaining an independent expert team to review the actions of our management team and employees” on the day of the tornado strike.

“We’re going to do a thorough review of what happened, and we’re asking these experts to critique our emergency plans and to offer any suggestions on ways they may be improved, if any.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Tuesday that the state has opened its own investigation into what happened at the factory.

“Everyone is expected to live up to certain standards of both the law, of safety and of being decent human beings,” he said. “I hope everybody lived up to those standards.”

So far 75 people had been confirmed dead across the state and 100 more remain unaccounted for, Beshear said Tuesday. Twelve of those who were killed were children, one of whom was 2 months old.

Deon J. Hampton reported from Mayfield, and Corky Siemaszko from New York.