Perplexed? - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Perplexed?

The Plex in Wichita Falls promises fun for all ages. 

But for patrons who were there Saturday evening, the fun turned into anger and fear. 

While a possible tornado threatened Wichita Falls, Plex management told everyone inside the building to wait outside until they could go home or be picked up. 

"My staff closed the doors after everybody left," Plex owner Doug McCulloch said.

McCulloch says it was a miscommunication between himself and his staff that caused everyone who was inside the Plex to be forced outside during an active tornado warning.

A photo of children standing outside of the building yesterday sparked outrage on Facebook. Questions surfaced regarding whether or not the Plex had any tornado safety plan at all.

"A place that focuses on children didn't have a plan. What if it did hit then and there and the kids were outside," asked Orlando Juarez, the father of a child who was at the Plex on Saturday. 

"There were a couple of mistakes made," McCulloch admitted.

McCulloch told us there are no safe rooms in the facility, and he was concerned with customers' safety in a metal building.

"If a tornado hits this metal building, the whole building and all of its contents will be destroyed, and we didn't want that," he said.

According to McCulloch, if any kids we're not picked up, staff would have taken them back inside to hope for the best inside a bathroom, closet, or the freezer.

Reylando Franco-Juarez was one of the kids locked out. His dad was at work, and couldn't come pick him up. 

"The wind was picking up. We didn't know what was going to happen. We actually thought a tornado was going to hit," Juarez said.

With sirens blaring, Reylando was scared. He tried to seek shelter in the closest spot, the McDonald's on Southwest Parkway. 

But McDonald's, following its' policy, had already locked their doors.

"One of the employees was about to let me in," Juarez said, "and the manager just [shook her head.]"

The younger Juarez waited outside until a friend's mom picked him up twenty minutes later. His dad questioned why the Plex asked anyone to be on the roads at all.

"You're going to drive in a tornado warning, when you're told to not even leave? That's what I don't understand right there," Orlando Juarez said.

"What we have to do is do more training and we have to get better at what we do in severe weather situations," McCulloch said.

McCulloch apologized for the mistakes, and promised to "learn from our mistakes and do better."

We asked Orlando Juarez how he responds to questions of why he dropped his son at the Plex during bad weather. He said once they're there, it's the responsibility of the Plex to keep kids safe.

The Plex Facebook page also chimed in about parental responsibility in this case. They posted, "Why oh why would a parent leave a child unattended at any business when we were warned for several days that severe weather was possible today? Maybe dropping off your children without adult supervision is part of the problem?" 

McCulloch said he personally did not write the message, and the post was later deleted. 

Dave Caulfield, Newschannel 6

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