New details indicate that a manager endured a horrifying death in an Arby's walk-in freezer earlier this month, and her family has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the fast-food chain and the franchise owners.
On May 12, TheBlaze reported that an unidentified female employee of an Arby's in New Iberia, Louisiana, was discovered dead in the freezer. Reports now identify the deceased employee as Nguyet Le, a 63-year-old widow and mother of four who had been managing the store on a temporary basis.
The circumstances that reportedly led to Le's untimely death are nothing short of terrifying. On the morning of May 11, Le arrived at the store early to begin food preparation and at some point entered the walk-in freezer, which shut behind her. According to reports, owners had been aware since at least last August that the freezer had a faulty latch. That day, it malfunctioned once again, and Le found herself trapped inside, where temperatures reportedly hovered at or below -10 degrees.
Le began furiously pounding against the door, either to try and get it to budge or to draw the attention of anyone else who might be in the store, causing her hands to bleed. Covered in blood, Le then "collapsed into a fetal position before freezing face-first to the floor," said attorney Paul Skrabanek, who is representing the family.
To make matters even worse, Le's son, Nguyen Le, who is slightly disabled and who also worked at the Arby's, was the one who discovered his mother's lifeless body, though when she was discovered remains unclear. Initial reports claimed that police were contacted around 6:20 p.m. that evening, but the lawsuit indicated that Nguyen found his mother's body shortly after he arrived for his shift at 10 a.m.
Family of woman who died in New Iberia Arby's sues companywww.youtube.com
An autopsy later revealed that Le's cause of death was hypothermia, and an investigation by local police seemed to confirm that the freezer door was defective. According to Skrabanek, one of the police officers on duty the evening Le died "had a panic moment" when he went to investigate the freezer door for himself and got locked inside. Another Arby's employee also reportedly became locked inside the freezer after Le's death but thankfully escaped unharmed.
Though foul play is not suspected in the case, the lawsuit still claims that the defendants — Turbo Restaurants, LLC, which owns the store; Sun Holdings, Inc.; Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc.; Arby’s, Inc.; and Inspire Brands, Inc. — were responsible for negligence, gross negligence, and wrongful death in the case. According to the lawsuit, the defendants knew that the door was broken and that employees routinely used a screwdriver to force the door open and then used a heavy box of oil as a doorstop to keep it open. The family is seeking more than $1 million in damages, loss of support, pain and suffering, and loss of affection.
The lawsuit was filed last Thursday in Harris County Court in Texas, likely because Le and her son, Nguyen, were actually residents of Houston, Texas, and both typically worked at an Arby's there. Earlier this year, a regional manager identified in the lawsuit only as "Mr. Finster" asked Le to relocate to the New Iberia store for four weeks, and Nguyen joined her. Finster then asked Le to remain an additional two weeks. Their stint in Louisiana was almost done when Le tragically passed away.
Several outlets, including Law & Crime and KTRK, reached out to the defendants for comment but did not receive a response. Laurel Sprague, the brand reputation manager from an Arby's corporate office, did issue a statement shortly after Le's death: "We are aware of the incident that took place at our franchised location in New Iberia, LA. The franchisee is cooperating fully with local authorities as they conduct their investigation. Due to this being an active investigation, we defer any further comment to the police department."
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