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Mayfield factory employees describe last-minute life-saving decisions, chaotic moments leading up to tornado

The search operation has ended at the Mayfield candle factory, where every employee who was working Friday night has been accounted for.

MAYFIELD, Ky. — Every employee that was inside the Mayfield candle factory during Friday night's storms has been accounted for. Eight people are dead and more than 100 survived. 

Now, those who lived through the terror of that night are sharing their stories about what they saw and heard.

"All of the sudden this gust of wind came through, and then all of the people who were on the outside starting coming in, and they everybody started splitting because they wanted to be behind the wall... then boom - the entire building came down," Mayfield Consumer Products employee Kyanna Parsons-Perez said.

"I remember hearing people say, 'We're gonna die.' I remember thinking on my own, 'I'm gonna die,'” Sarah Atkins, another employee, remembered.

"My ears started popping, I knew there was a tornado coming and then all of the sudden there was a wall laying on top of me,” Darren, an MCP employee described.

"Some people were too hard to help, they were too stuck. Whatever we did was making the situation worse for them,” employee Lathan Harpo explained.

At the reunification site, which was stationed at a church near the factory, some employees who worked together Friday night saw each other for the first time. Cindy and Lathan worked together on the line and said they were separated Friday when Cindy made a last-minute decision. 

"I jumped in a metal cage that had the chemicals around it and grabbed a five-gallon bucket and put it over my head," she said.

She said that decision saved her life. 

“People's bodies blocked mine from being smashed and burnt by chemicals," she said.

Looking back, some workers said they don't think they should have been there Friday night.

A lot of good people lost their lives that night," Parsons-Perez said. "And they didn't have to because we didn't have to be at work." 

She said she wishes factory leadership would have closed for the night. She also said if she wanted to leave, she would have.

"I felt that [if] I needed to go - I would've gone home. Period. They wouldn't have stopped me,” Parsons-Perez said.

RELATED: How to help Western Kentucky families following historic tornado outbreak

Another employee explained how he interpreted a supervisor's message to stay at work. "I did hear somebody say we're not supposed to leave but that was after the sirens went off. I figured that was policy...they were trying to keep everybody safe; don’t run off into the tornado,” Darren said.

One employee told WHAS11 workers were told not to leave or they would be fired.

“They told us that if we left we were going to be terminated,” Atkins said.

A company spokesperson said that allegation is "totally false." He said they have talked at length with plant management and chain leaders who were there and he said no one threatened to fire employees who wanted to go home.

"Some people didn't survive, and some people walked away - I happened to be one that walked away,” Darren said.

Now, many employees said they are ready to look forward. Workers told WHAS11 the company has offered employees from the Mayfield plant jobs at other nearby facilities.

As for what happened at the factory Friday night, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet confirms OSHA is investigating, which is standard procedure when there are workplace fatalities. Governor Andy Beshear said he "hopes [the factory] did everything right, and if they did something wrong that information will come out.”

Contact reporter Shay McAlister atsmcalister@whas11.com. Follow her onTwitter (@WHAS11Shay) andFacebook.

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