A New Iberia, Louisiana Arby’s manager named Nguyet Le froze to death in the restaurant’s walk-in freezer after the safety latch allegedly malfunctioned, subjecting her to -10 degrees for hours before the police were eventually called.
(Video Credit: KATC)
Le was a 63-year-old widower with four children. Her death was reportedly “horrific.”
The tragedy occurred on May 11 after she entered the freezer shortly after 9 am that morning according to a lawsuit filed by the family. After getting trapped, she beat her hands bloody trying to get the attention of workers at Arby’s. Le “collapsed into a fetal position face down on the frozen floor” according to court papers. Her son was the one who found her, the New York Post reported.
She was found at approximately 6:20 pm according to both an initial report by the New Iberia police and a statement by her attorney. The lawsuit says she was discovered “after” 10 am. In temperatures of 10 below zero, frostbite begins to take effect after 30 minutes according to the National Weather Service. Hypothermia, which is what killed Le, starts soon after that. She would have suffered uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech, and drowsiness before she died.
The latch had been reportedly broken since August 2022. The lawsuit contends that employees often used a screwdriver to open the freezer. A box of oil was used to keep the door open at times according to court documents.
Le and her eldest son Nguyen, who are both from Houston, were transferred to that particular restaurant according to the Daily Mail. They were only supposed to be there for four weeks but the assignment in Louisiana was then extended.
The manager’s children are suing Arby’s over their mother’s death. No foul play is suspected by police but negligence is being charged.
“The preliminary report from the coroner’s office is that hypothermia was the cause of death,” the attorney for the family, Paul Skrababeank told local station KATC in an interview. “Which is horrific and that the investigating officers found a good bit of blood on the door so she must have fought to get out before collapsing.”
“I think once you see the police report, you’re going to see how horrific this was and how it was described to me,” Skrabanek told KLFY. “Her getting caught in this freezer and trying to beat on the door until her hands were bloody. There was blood all over the door, and then she collapsed into a fetal position before freezing face-first to the floor.”
It’s unknown currently exactly how many unsuspecting staff members were on shift when Le froze to death or why it took so long to call the police.
The complaint filed by the family also names Turbo Restaurants and Sun Holdings. Both are based in Texas and own several Arby’s restaurants. The family is seeking at least $1 million in damages. Aside from her son Nguyen, Le’s other children are Tiffani, Nina, and Trina.
The family wants a trial by jury. They are suing for damages and relief over the widower’s death, past and future mental anguish, conscious pain and suffering, loss of support, and loss of love and affection, the complaint asserts.
“Arby’s was negligent and grossly negligent in failing to inspect and train the personnel at the subject location,” court documents state. “Defendants acted with flagrant and malicious disregard of Plaintiffs’ health and safety and for the health and safety of others.”
According to the Miami Herald, an Arby’s spokesperson issued a statement on May 26 noting that the franchisee in New Iberia is “cooperating fully with local authorities as they conduct their investigation” concerning the “tragic incident.”
Turbo Restaurants and Sun Holdings own over a thousand franchisees across 12 states, under various brands including Applebee’s, Arby’s, Burger King, Golden Corral, IHOP, McAlister’s, Papa John’s, and Taco Bueno.
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