A Kentucky inmate who was on work release at a doomed Kentucky candle factory has turned himself in after surviving the catastrophic tornado that leveled the plant.
Francisco Starks, 44, was working off a burglary and car theft conviction at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory on Friday when a massive twister reduced the plant to rubble, killing at least eight workers, Kentucky State Police said on Facebook.
Starks suffered injuries to his neck, back and legs and was taken to Jackson Purchase Medical Center for treatment — and walked away after being released, police said.
State police on Sunday issued an alert on Starks, asking for any information on the inmate’s whereabouts.
But Starks’ lawyer said he never planned to escape after surviving the twister.
“He is traumatized after watching the deputy [supervisor] pass away and sustaining injuries,” attorney Madison Leach told NBC News. “He didn’t escape jail. He escaped death.”
“He had no idea what to do,” Leach said. “Due to his injuries, when he reached out to me I picked him [up] and took him to a jail in a nearby county for him to turn himself in.”
Starks turned himself into the Calloway County jail to complete his prison term.
Mayfield was one of the hardest-hit Kentucky communities when a series of tornadoes touched down, killing at least 74 people in the state with more than 100 still missing.
Officials said the twisters also killed at least 14 others in neighboring states.
Workers at the Mayfield plant were reportedly told they would be fired if they left as the killer tornado closed in on the plant, several employees said this week.
Plant officials flatly denied the claim, saying all workers have been free to leave under rules put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, they said.