Robert Daniel was more than a supervisor at Graves County Jail. He was a father of seven who enjoyed rehabilitating inmates through a work-release program at a Candle Factory in Mayfield, Ky.
Daniel was working on Dec. 10 when a mammoth tornado rumbled through his Western Kentucky town destroying property and killing more than 80 people. Daniel was one of eight victims of a series of more than 80 tornados.
“The last thing he did was make sure [the inmates] were taken care of, even at his own peril,” said George Workman, a co-worker at the jail who described Daniel to reporters on the scene as a hero.
Nearly 100 people have been confirmed dead along the 250-mile path of destruction in Kentucky and across the south central U.S.
President Joe Biden toured neighborhoods where homes had been reduced to piles of rubble, including bricks, personal belongings, cars flipped upside down, and trees mangled with insulation and other parts of houses and buildings. Biden has promised all federal resources available for survivors of the tragedy.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has established the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to assist those affected by the tornados and the severe weather system that hit only a few weeks before Christmas.
According to reports, when Daniel’s friends saw news reports of the destruction at the candle factory, they rushed to the scene. Jason Blair and A.J. Ferguson said they found Daniel crushed by a big wall that fell on him. One of the inmates was found under Daniel, but survived. Blair and Ferguson said they believed it was Daniel’s large frame that saved the inmate.
Daniel’s daughter, Jenna, told CBS News that her father died saving lives, and for that, “he deserves all the honor.”
“He did his job and he did it well because all of his inmates survived,” she said.
Reported deaths: 21 in Graves County; 17 in Hopkins County; 15 in Warren County; 11 in Muhlenberg County; 4 in Caldwell County; 2 in Marshall County; and one each in Franklin, Fulton, Lyon and Taylor counties.
The ages of those killed now range from 2 months old to 98 years old. Twelve of those killed were children.
There currently are approximately 122 Kentuckians unaccounted for as local, state and federal crews continue rescue and recovery efforts.
About 568 Kentucky National Guardsmen continue to support the storm relief. Seventy-nine soldiers and airmen completed search and extraction and fatality search and retrieval at the factory site in Mayfield, with two chaplains serving for spiritual support.
Kentucky State Police continue to request that Mayfield Consumer Products-Candle Factory employees go to His House Ministries Church at 1250 KY-303 in Mayfield for assistance.
Those wanting to donate can make checks to the Kentucky State Treasurer. In the memo line please note the donation is for the “Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.”
To help the tornado victims and their families, the checks can be sent to Public Protection Cabinet, 500 Mero Street, 218 NC, Frankfort, KY 40601.
The state police are in the process of verifying information provided by executives from MCP Candle Factory to ensure that all potential victims are accounted for. The employee support line number is 888-880-8620.
At Daniel’s funeral, the sanctuary was packed with people — Black and white — for the burly man who had a big sense of humor and was nicknamed “Harp,” according to the Louisville Courier journal.
“You know it’s true whenever you hear it from the inmates,” said George Workman, a Graves County jailer in the Courier Journal. “They said that he was taking care of them, telling them to get to the wall, which is the safe place. They were headed that way, and that was the last that they saw of him. He was pushing the last one of them in.”
Yvonne Coleman Bach, associate publisher, and the staff at the Louisville Defender Newspaper contributed to this story.