Panera Employee Hailed as Hero for Rescuing Co-workers After Tornado

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WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, Pa.  - Darrin Kline describes the moments when a tornado tore through the Wilkes-Barre Township Commons shopping plaza while he was closing up at the Panera Bread location.

“The windows started shaking and making weird sounds and I was like, maybe this isn't good, so then all the glass shattered,” said Kline.

The 19-year-old said when the twister hit, it hit fast

“The roof caved in and we were slammed against the wall,” said Kline. “Then it hit, it hurt for a second, but the wind made a lot worse. We were literally stuck to the walls for a couple seconds.”

An E-F 2 tornado with winds of about 130 miles an hour came through at least two popular shopping plazas around 10 p.m. Thursday night.

Skycam 16 shows just how much damage and destruction it left behind.

Kline says while he and his co-workers were trapped by debris, rainwater was rapidly filling the restaurant.

“Am I going to live, am I going to be alive tomorrow?” said Kline. “But I knew I was safe because I was covering myself, but it was just like wow, I can't believe I clocked into work today and this is what is happening.”

Kline says once he freed himself of all the fallen debris, he went in searching for his co-workers to see if they needed help.

Employee Sarah Smith told Newswatch 16 she had become locked in Panera's walk-in cooler, Kline came to her rescue.

“I got her out of the cooler and out of the restaurant,” said Kline.

“The story he told me about everything he did, I'm so proud of him that he acted in the best way he could,” said Darrin's mother Sharon Kline.

Kline even got a call from Panera Bread's district manager.

“He's like you're a hero,” said Kline. “I'm not a hero just, when you work with people like you do so many days and so many hours, you just want to help, we worked a whole shift together.”

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