Mum froze to death inside restaurant freezer that had been broken for months

A mum-of-four has frozen to death after becoming trapped in a broken walk-in freezer, leaving her family seeking damages of £810,000.

The lawsuit claims that branch manager, Nguyet Le, 63, was preparing for the store's opening in New Iberia, Louisiana, US at around 9am on May 11 when she found herself stuck inside the icy unit.

An hour after getting trapped, Le's devastated son discovered her in the fetal position.

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The responding officer to the incident said that there were blood stains left on the doors, which were likely made by her frantic attempts to escape.

Employees had been using a screwdriver to open and close the latch on the freezer, and a box of oil to keep the door open, since at leat August 2022, claims the lawsuit.

A former male employee, who did not want to be identified, told KATC News that multiple work orders were submitted to fix the broken latch.

He had also taken photos inside the the freezer from prior complaints.

"They've known about it," he said. "Workers have complained."

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According to the lawsuit, Le was usually the general manager of an Arby's location in Houston, but had moved to Louisiana to temporarily take over one of the restaurants in February.

The court filing claimed that she had arrived at the restaurant at around 9am on May 11, an hour earlier than her staff, including her son, were set to arrive.

During the time when she was alone in the restaurant, she became trapped inside the walk-in freezer, which was usually kept at -10 degrees.

She was tragically discovered by her son when he arrived for work, and the responding officer reported that the inside of the freezer door was bloodied, likely by her attempts to escape.

A preliminary report from the coroner's office confirmed the mother-of-four died of hypothermia.

Attorney Paul Skrabanek, who is representing the family, is calling for a formal investigation into the restaurant's alleged freezer malfunctions.

A former employee told him that the latch on the cooler was not working properly since August, and that the problem was known and ignored by management.

He said the family is suing, in part, because his inquiries to Arby's would have gone unanswered. The family is seeking more than $1millon (£810,000) in damages.

The incident led Le's children to file a lawsuit against Turbo Restaurants, Sun Holdings and Arby's Corporate for negligence and gross negligence.

The Daily Star has contacted Arby's and Sun Holdings for comment.


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