(NewsNation Now) — A family is hailing their father and husband as a hero after he died in the Mayfield, Kentucky tornado protecting inmates.
Graves County Deputy Jailer Robert Daniel was supervising inmate workers at a candle factory in Mayfield when the tornado struck. His boss said Monday that Daniel had been focused on the prisoners in his care when he was killed as the twister wrecked the plant.
Daniel, 47, had worked at the county jail for a few years previously and was rehired a few months ago, Graves County Jailer George Workman said. The seven inmates Daniel was overseeing at the factory Friday night were part of a brand-new work program and had just begun their jobs three days earlier.
After the storm hit, the inmates told Workman’s deputies that it was Daniel who literally had pushed them all to safety, guiding them through a doorway and against a wall in an interior part of the plant. Workman said the last inmate through the door told deputies that Daniel was behind him one moment, and suddenly he was gone.
“He was physically still in the act of trying to get them to safety. And that’s when it hit,” Workman said. “It takes a tremendous person to be able to lay their own life down for somebody else. But he did and he was doing it for the right reasons.”
“He died protecting people. All seven of them survived,” his daughter, Jeana Daniel, told NewsNation.
Workman confirmed that all seven inmates in Daniel’s care survived, though he said two of them suffered broken legs.
Robert’s brother, Alonzo, said he was a “family man” with seven kids and several grandchildren.
“That’s what he was all about,” said Alonzo. “Whatever he needed to do for his kids and grandkids he was there for.”
He said he’ll always remember his brother as a hero.
“He went out doing exactly what he was supposed to do. He put his life on the line for others and ultimately it cost him his life. But he was able to save everyone that he was supposed to save,” said Alonzo.
A cousin, Mark Saxton Sr., told The Associated Press that Daniel was a native of the Mayfield area devastated by the storm.
“He loved his community,” Saxton said. “He was a great family man. Everybody who met him just loved him. He’s the type of person you want to be associated with.”