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Miner killed in accident described as kind person, always willing to help others

Kenny Wright's fiancée told WPTV he was a hard-worker who loved his family
Posted at 7:08 PM, Mar 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-17 19:17:02-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — A manager at the Vulcan Materials Fort Pierce Quarry killed in a mining accident Wednesday is being remembered by his loved ones.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the incident happened Wednesday at around 1:15 p.m. at Vulcan Materials Company located at 14171 Range Line Rd., when the bank of a pond broke away, causing the excavator he was in to become submerged in the water.

Authorities searched for more than 24 hours to recover his body.

Friday, WPTV's Kate Hussey sat down with his fiancée, Diane Padro, and her daughter, Ashley Flores, who identified him as Kenny Wright.

Padro said Wright worked at Vulcan Materials for three or four years, and loved his job. She said most importantly, they loved each other more than anything. She said they were together for 18 years, and were supposed to get married in a few months.

"He was my whole world," Padro said. "I listen to his voicemail, smell his pillow, I look at his Harley, I look around the house. Everything reminds me of him. I would have done anything for him. Anything. I just can’t believe he’s gone. He’s not coming back."

Padro recalled the moments leading up to the phone call she got, telling her about the accident.

Diane Padro.jpg
Diane Padro shares her memories of her late fiance.

“Wednesday, I came home from work. I tried calling [Wright]. No answer. His sister called me all hysterical on the phone, telling me something happened at the quarry," Padro said. "I waited for him the day that it happened I said, 'OK, I'll wait until six, cook dinner, do what I usually do for him. I waited. I waited. I heard every bike. No answer. I knew he was dead. I knew it. I knew it.”

Padro said Wright loved his motorcycles, loved his dogs, and would do anything for those he loved—whether it was rescuing a friend with a flat tire, doing chores around the house, or cooking for Padro and Flores.

“He’d always figure things out, if I was in doubt or something he’d solve it for me," Padro said.

Flores echoed Padro's words, saying he was an incredible stepfather, and that he would always jump to help her out. She also said what made grieving his death even harder was the silence he left behind.

"You sit around, and you literally just wait to hear the motorcycle pull up, that was his sign, the dogs know, 'vroom vroom,' Kenny's home, everyone's going to the door to welcome Kenny home," Flores said. "Every day, so it's five, six o’clock, the dogs are waiting at the door for Kenny to come home. It’s a daily reminder everyday, where’s Kenny?”

Padro described the agonizing 36 hours she waited while divers searched for his body, not knowing if she'd ever get the closure of saying one last final goodbye.

Ashley Flores.jpg
Ashley Flores shares how she, her mom and the family's dogs would wait for her stepfather to come home each day after work.

"He sat underwater for two days," Padro said. "I was always up, I couldn't sleep."

Now that they both have closure, Padro and Flores said they now have a hard question to confront: how do you move forward when your best friend of 18 years was taken away far too soon?

“I don’t know. I have no idea," Padro said, adding she desperately wished to hear his voice again. "I'm not going to have that no more. I'm not going to have his face, his smile, his look, nothing, just pictures and memories.”

Both Padro and Flores hope Wright is remembered not for the accident at the quarry, but for the impact he made, and who he was: a kind person with a big heart.

Flores has started a GoFund me page to support to raise funds for the family and the funeral expenses. To view the GoFund me page, click here.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees the Mine Safety and Health Administration, released the following statement to WPTV on Friday:

"The Mine Safety and Health Administration is conducting an ongoing investigation. MSHA investigates each mining fatality and prepares a fatality alert, a preliminary investigation, and a final report."

Vulcan Materials Company released a statement about the tragedy on Thursday:

"There was an incident that occurred yesterday at our Fort Pierce facility. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends, family, and loved ones of our employees at this time. We are grateful for the efforts of first responders. Our team is on-site and will continue to work directly with the parties involved throughout their ongoing recovery efforts and investigation."

Vulcan Materials is the nation's largest producer of construction aggregates, such as crushed stone, sand, and gravel, according to the company's website.