CATAWBA — On Saturday, Jan. 19, Jessica Storey felt the urgent need to assemble her family and visit mom. It had been too long since everyone was together.
So Jessica, her husband, Samir, and children, Jada Marie, Jamel and Nya, got in the car. Because Samir liked seafood, they assembled at a Red Lobster.
There, Samir praised 14-year-old Jamel for his time in JROTC. While Jada Marie and Jamel were technically his stepchildren, he loved them as his own, Jessica said.
Three days later in the early morning darkness, Jessica was banging on a tank at the Resolute Forest Products plant in Catawba. Samir was trapped inside as smoke filled the tank.
Jessica banged on the tank, calling Samirs name. Give me a sign you are all right! she screamed.
He didnt respond, Jessica said at a news conference Tuesday.
One day after she buried Samir Storey, Jessica on Tuesday struggled with her grief, tears welling up as she tried to explain what happened that morning.
All he wanted to do was take care of his family, she said. This hurts my heart. It was his first day on the job, he was making $11 or $12 an hour. It wasnt worth his life.
No one valued his life. No one helped him. No one saved him.
Tuesday, in a conference room and later the lobby of the Center City Marriott, Jessica, Samirs cousin Jermel Storey and the familys attorney, Christopher Chestnut, struggled to explain, and understand, what they believe was a preventable death.
York County emergency officials dispute that claim and the accident is under investigation.
Samir Storeys obituary indicates he will be best remembered for his comical personality and wonderful smile. But for Jessica, what she will remember first his Samirs persistence.
The first time Samir saw Jessica was in a photo of the R&B band she was singing with, Spanish Fly. Samir told his uncle, Lonnie, thats the woman Im going to marry.
They courted for two years and in March 2002, he proposed to Jessica on her birthday. They were married a year later in May. They moved from New Jersey to Indian Trail, N.C., in 2005.
Samir was a caring provider for his family. He worked in construction and was laid off during the recent Christmas holidays. He was stressed out about getting back to work, Jessica said.
Jan. 21 was his first day of work for Tradesman International, which had a contract to clean the fume tank at Resolute Forest Products Catawba plant. He had to be there are 6:30 in the morning for testing. He got up about 4:30 a.m., leaving his wife asleep when he went to pick up his cousin Jermel Storey.
They talked on his lunch break. It was a familiar conversation for parents what the kids schedules were. Jessica asked him what time he would be home. Samir said he didnt know, it was first day on the job. They exchanged I love yous.
At 1:05 a.m. Jan. 22, Jessicas world was shattered.
Jermel Storey called. Samir was trapped in the tank. Emergency sirens had gone off. Jermel had helped pull two co-workers to safety. He was new on the job, too. He didnt even know their names.
Jessica got in the car and drove to the Catawba plant, calling 911 on the way. Her call was one of four made to 911 about the accident.
She arrived at the plant and drove through an unattended gate. When she couldnt find the fume tank, she returned to the gate. A guard there, Jessica said, threatened to have her arrested for trespassing. She told to the guard to do what he needed to do, she was there to save her husband.
When Jessica arrived at the tank she was past panic, she said. I was scared and helpless. I couldnt see inside the tank. It was pitch black. I was numb. I was looking for help.
Jessica was asked to leave the tank site. She didnt leave the property, however. She and Jermel gathered outside the gate, waiting for news on Samir.
Finally, more than eight hours after she received Jemels call, someone came and told her He didnt make it.
Fighting back the tears Tuesday, Jessica said his death has tramatized her family.
I feel crippled without him, she said. I dont know how to go on without him. He didnt deserve to die. The least they could have done is try to help him.