Arby's manager whose son found her frozen to death inside a freezer was trapped for six hours
By Neirin Gray Desai For Dailymail.Com,2023-05-28
An Arby's manager found frozen to death inside a walk-in freezer was inside for at least six hours in -10 degree conditions before police were called.
The four children of 63-year-old widower Nguyet Le - one of whom also worked in the restaurant and found her frozen body - are suing Arby's over their mother's death in a Louisiana restaurant and claim she 'beat her hands bloody trying to escape'.
The widower and her son, who are both from Houston, were transferred to work at the restaurant in New Iberia temporarily, according to the lawsuit, which also alleges the freezer was broken and employees often had to use a screwdriver to open it .
Le entered the store soon after 9am on May 11 to performing opening duties, according to the lawsuit. Some time between then and the arrival of other employees at 10am she became trapped in the freezer.
Her body was found at around 6.20pm, according to both an initial report by the New Iberia police and a statement by her attorney . The lawsuit says only that she was discovered 'after' 10am.
According to the National Weather Service , in conditions of 10 below zero, frostbite will begin taking affect within just 30 minutes. Hypothermia can start taking affect soon after.
Warning signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, slurred speech, and drowsiness.
Prior to taking up a position at the Arby's in New Iberia, Le worked at another Arby's restaurant in Houston, Texas, as a general manager, the lawsuit says.
In February, her supervisor asked her to take a temporary assignment and work at the Arby's in New Iberia, Louisiana, for what was supposed to be four weeks, according to the lawsuit.
Her eldest son Nguyen lived with his mother and joined her on the assignment, the lawsuit reads. That placement was extended by months.
New Iberia Police Department wrote the day after she was discovered that they suspected there was 'no foul play'.
'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.
'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.'
It is unclear how many other staff were on shift with Le the day she became stuck, or why the cops were not called until the evening.
Also named in the complaint, filed in a Texas court, are Turbo Restaurants and Sun Holdings. They are based in Texas and own several Arby's restaurants.
A former New Iberia Arby's employee told Nguyen Le and his siblings that the restaurant's walk-in freezer latch had been broken since August 2022 and employees used a screwdriver to open and close the door.
At other times, a box of oil was used to keep the door open, according to the petition.
The family is seeking damages of at least $1 million. Her other three children are Tiffani, Nina and Trina.
They are seeking a trial by jury and are suing to recover damages and relief over her death, past and future mental anguish, conscious pain and suffering, loss of support and loss of love and affection, the complaint shows.
An Arby's spokesperson told the Miami Herald in a statement on May 26 that the franchisee in New Iberia is 'cooperating fully with local authorities as they conduct their investigation' over the 'tragic incident.'
Turbo Restaurants and Sun Holdings own over a thousand franchisees across 12 states, under brands Applebee's, Arby's, Burger King, Golden Corral, IHOP, McAlister's, Papa Johns and Taco Buenos.