Author: Sophia Tareen | Associated Press
CHICAGO – A search for a tornado that killed at least six people at an Amazon facility in Illinois was expected to last several days, but officials said they did not expect to find additional survivors.
When the tornado struck at 8:35 p.m. on Friday, the company did not say how many people were in the building, not far from St. Louis – all the communities across the Midwest and South were on a flat turn to part of Officials said they did not have a full account of staff because it was during a shift change and there were several part-time workers.
Edwardsville fire chief James Whiteford said both sides of the warehouse collapsed inside to prepare orders for delivery, and the roof collapsed. Whiteford said officials received a report that workers were trapped and the fire department arrived within six minutes. Police helped get people out from under the rubble. Forty-five workers survived, six were killed and a seventh was taken to hospital by helicopter.
Whiteford said crews will be searching for the wreckage for several days.
On Sunday, Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn identified the six people killed. Four were from Illinois: Austin J. McEwen, 26, of Edwardsville, Clayton Lynn Cope, 29, of Alton, Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville, and Kevin D. Dickey, 62. Carlisle. The other two – 28-year-old Deandre S. Morrow and 34-year-old Etheria S. Hebb – were from St. Louis.
Cope’s sister, Rachel Cope, said her brother worked for the Amazon for more than a year and served in the Navy. He was also a motorcyclist, a video game lover, and his dog was Draco.
“He’s going his own way for everyone,” he said in a written message to the Associated Press.
Nonn’s said on Sunday that there were no expected reports of casualties in connection with the building’s collapse.
“Search efforts are continuing to ensure there are no additional casualties,” he said in a statement.
The damage to the building was enormous; after the walls and roof were excavated, the steel supporting columns of the structure were opened.
“These walls are made of 11-inch-thick concrete and their height is about 40 feet, so a lot of weight has been dropped,” Whiteford told a news conference Saturday.
Employee Amanda Goss had just started the first week of her new job as an Amazon delivery driver when a tornado occurred.
“When I looked up, the corner of the building was shaking and it came down from the garage area and then I felt the gates coming in from behind me,” Goss told KTVI-TV. “The only thing I can do is sit in the minibus, hoping it won’t move.”
According to Amazon, one of the three facilities in Edwardsville is a 1.1 million-square-foot (102,193-square-foot) “delivery station” that employs about 190 workers in several shifts, according to Amazon. works. The facility, which opened in July 2020, prepares orders for “last mile delivery” to customers. Edwardsville is located about 25 miles (40 miles) northeast of St. Louis.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones and all affected by the tornado,” said Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel. “We will continue to support our staff and partners in the region.”
Amazon said that if the site is alerted to a tornado, all employees will be alerted and evacuated to a shelter.
However, company officials declined to answer specific questions about when employees were warned.
The retail workers ’union, which encouraged Amazon to set up employees, has condemned the company for“ hazardous work practices ”for employing employees in harsh weather conditions.
“From time to time, Amazon prioritizes the results of its work over the lives of its employees,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Association, in a statement. “Requiring workers to work with such a major tornado warning event is unjustifiable.”
Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.