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Inmate honored for saving lives when tornado hit Ky. candle factory

Ky. inmate hailed as hero for saving lives after deadly tornado hit candle factory
Published: Feb. 26, 2022 at 11:19 PM CST
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GRAVES COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - A Kentucky inmate is being hailed as a hero for helping people buried under the debris of the candle factory in Mayfield after the Dec. 10 tornado.

Graves County Sheriff Jon Hayden said in a Facebook post that Marco Sanchez was on a work detail at the Mayfield factory when the tornado hit. The sheriff called Sanchez a hero, saying he undoubtedly saved lives that night.

It’s a night Sanchez will never forget, WKYT reports, being inside the candle factory as an EF-4 tornado collapsed the building on top of roughly 100 people.

“I heard wind. My ears were ringing. I lost my balance,” Sanchez said. “Everything happened within seconds.”

Sanchez, an inmate at the Graves County Jail, was working a work-release program at the factory when the walls caved in on them.

“When it happened and I came back, there was no one around me. I was trapped in the rubble,” he said.

With a broken leg and cracked ribs, Sanchez, running on adrenaline, dug his way out.

“I was sitting on top of the building thinking, ‘What do I do?’ I was by myself. No one was around. It was dark. No responses. No people were around,” he said.

In that moment, Sanchez still wasn’t sure he was alive.

“I thought maybe I had died and I was working my way up to heaven,” Sanchez said.

Then, realizing he was indeed alive, Sanchez started looking for survivors.

“There was a girl there trapped, and she was crying, ‘Help me. I’m trapped.’ She didn’t know I was there. Every decision I made at that moment, I don’t have experience on rescuing or anything. I just used common sense,” he said.

Sanchez worked to free several others from the rubble and helped others who were injured and trapped, according to Hayden’s Facebook post. He was honored Tuesday for his efforts by the sheriff’s office and community leaders.

“I honor that. I accept that as being a hero because, yes, I saved lives, and that is what being a hero does,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez has been overwhelmed by the comments on the now-viral Facebook post. He’s gotten to read them and says they have inspired him to believe in himself.

Due to his actions, Sanchez was offered shock probation and could be out of jail now, but he wanted to finish his sentence and debt to society. He will be released from jail March 1 after serving a year for stealing a phone.

“I thought because of what I did that led me to incarceration, it was something that I did, and I deserve to do the time,” he said.

Sanchez is from Arizona. He says he left his family 15 years ago and hasn’t seen them since. When the Facebook post went viral, his sister saw it and was able to reconnect. They had a reunion via Zoom Thursday.

Sanchez says he wants to stay in Mayfield and help with the rebuilding when he is released. The sheriff’s office has helped him set up temporary housing. They are looking for anyone with an inexpensive car for sale, saying he will need reliable transportation to sustain a job.

The sheriff’s office is also collecting monetary donations, which can be sent to Mayfield-Graves County Tornado Relief Fund PO Box 9 Fancy Farm, Ky 42039. Be sure to note that donation is intended to assist Mr. Marco Sanchez.

Eight employees at the candle factory died in the Dec. 10 tornado. At least 80 people were killed across Kentucky. The severe weather was part of an outbreak of at least 30 tornadoes across six states in the Midwest and South.

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