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Man who shared 8 kids with girlfriend killed in Kentucky factory hit by tornado

Joe Ward, who shared eight children with girlfriend Autumn Kirks, was one of those killed in a Kentucky candle factory that was destroyed in seconds by a tornado.

Autumn Kirks and her boyfriend Joe Ward had just started working at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Kentucky a few weeks ago in order to save money for a new house for their combined eight children.

They were both working inside the factory on Dec. 10 when a deadly tornado ripped through Mayfield, bringing down the roof of the factory while more than 100 people were working inside.

The tornadoes left a path of destruction across six states that killed at least 49 people as of Monday morning, with more expected as rescuers work through the rubble.

Kirks was able to make it out alive, but Ward did not survive.

"I had a savior," Kirks told NBC News senior national correspondent Kate Snow on TODAY Monday. "I don’t know who it was, but he lifted a concrete wall off me and three of my girls and got us out."

Kirks said her boyfriend had been within 10 feet of her when the tornado decimated the building. She is now grieving the loss of the man who was helping her raise their eight children.

"I’m trying to be strong for them," she said. "That’s the only thing keeping me going right now is my kids."

Mark Saxton was another one of the 110 people working the night shift at the Mayfield factory when the tornado leveled the building in a matter of seconds.

"I don’t see how nobody can be OK after this," he told Snow.

Denise Cunningham's son, Devyn, 21, was killed while working in the factory when the tornado hit. She believes no one should have been working there at the time given the warnings about extreme weather.

"They knew it was coming," she told Snow. "I’m more than angry. I think they should be held accountable for everything that’s happened to these families, for my son."

Tony Propes, the CEO of Mayfield Consumer Products, said the tornadoes were too unpredictable and hit too fast to have evacuated the factory.

"If we believed that we could do anything differently, in hindsight, of course, I think all of us do something differently," he said on TODAY. "It is such a gamble to say leave, because the last thing you do, it says don’t get in your car, that’s what experts say."