NATIONAL NEWS

Crews search rubble after 6 die at Illinois Amazon facility

Dec 13, 2021, 5:55 AM
First responders survey a damaged Amazon Distribution Center on December 11, 2021 in Edwardsville, ...
First responders survey a damaged Amazon Distribution Center on December 11, 2021 in Edwardsville, Illinois. According to reports, the Distribution Center was struck by a tornado Friday night. Emergency vehicles arrived to start rescue operations for workers believed to be trapped inside. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (AP) — Search efforts at an Amazon facility in Illinois where at least six people were killed in a tornado were expected to take several days, but authorities said they did not expect to find additional survivors.

The company has not said how many people were in the building not far from St. Louis when the tornado hit at 8:35 p.m. Friday — part of a swarm of twisters across the Midwest and the South that leveled entire communities. Authorities said they didn’t have a full count of employees because it was during a shift change and there were several part-time employees.

Both sides of the warehouse used to prepare orders for delivery collapsed inward and the roof caved, according to Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford. Authorities received reports of workers being trapped and the fire unit arrived within six minutes, Whiteford said. Police helped pull people from the rubble. While 45 employees survived, six people were killed and a seventh person was airlifted to a hospital.

Whiteford said crews would search the rubble for several days.

Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn on Sunday identified the six people who were killed. Four were from Illinois: 26-year-old Austin J. McEwen of Edwardsville, 29-year-old Clayton Lynn Cope of Alton, 46-year-old Larry E. Virden of Collinsville and 62-year-old Kevin D. Dickey of Carlyle. Two others — 28-year-old Deandre S. Morrow and 34-year-old Etheria S. Hebb — were from St. Louis.

Cope’s younger sister, Rachel Cope, said her brother had worked for Amazon for over a year and served in the Navy. He was also an avid motorcycle rider, lover of video games and his dog, Draco.

“He would go out of his way for anyone,” she told The Associated Press in a written message.

Nonn’s said Sunday there were no pending reports of missing people related to the building collapse.

“Search efforts continue to ensure that there are no additional victims,” he said in a statement.

The damage to the building was extensive; the structure’s steel support pillars were exposed after the walls and roof caved.

“These walls are made out of 11-inch thick concrete, and they’re about 40 feet tall, so a lot of weight from that came down,” Whiteford said at a Saturday news conference.

Employee Amanda Goss had just started her first week in a new job as an Amazon delivery driver when the tornado hit.

“As I look up, the corner of the building was shaking, and it comes down the garage area and then I felt the gates coming in behind me,” Goss told KTVI-TV. “All I do is sit there in my van hoping it don’t move.”

The Amazon facility, among three in Edwardsville, is a 1.1 million square foot (102,193 square meter) “delivery station” that employs about 190 workers across several shifts, according to Amazon. The facility, which opened in July 2020, prepares orders for “last-mile delivery” to customers. Edwardsville is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of St. Louis.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement. “We’re continuing to support our employees and partners in the area.”

Amazon said that when a site is made aware of a tornado warning, all employees are notified and directed to move to a shelter.

But company officials declined to answer specific questions about when employees were warned.

A union representing retail employees that has pushed to organize Amazon employees blasted the company for “dangerous labor practices” for having employees work during the severe weather.

“Time and time again Amazon puts its bottom line above the lives of its employees,” Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Requiring, said in a statement. “Requiring workers to work through such a major tornado warning event as this was inexcusable.”

_____

Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sophiatareen.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

(From left) Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are pictured here in 2016's "La La Land." (Dale Robinette/L...
Alli Rosenbloom

Musical adaptation of ‘La La Land’ is dancing its way to Broadway

Get your dancing shoes ready, because "La La Land" is coming to Broadway.
1 day ago
Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover debris from a suspected Chinese sur...
Haley Britzky

US Navy releases photos of Chinese spy balloon recovery effort

The U.S. Navy released photos Tuesday of its recovery effort of a suspected Chinese spy balloon, which U.S. fighter jets shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
1 day ago
Powerball's second-largest jackpot — an estimated $1.2 billion — is up for grabs Wednesday. (Ke...
Associated Press

Lucky player in Seattle suburb wins $754.6M Powerball prize

Washington state lottery officials say a single winning ticket for a $754.6 million Powerball jackpot was sold at a department store in a Seattle suburb.
1 day ago
FILE - In this image from video released and partially redacted by the city of Memphis, Tenn., Tyre...
Adrian Sainz, Associated Press

13 Memphis officers could be disciplined in Nichols case

Officials say 13 Memphis officers could end up being disciplined in connection with the violent arrest of Tyre Nichols.
1 day ago
The near-collision happened at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, seen here from the air. (Kir...
Greg Wallace and Pete Muntean

Southwest, FedEx jets came within 100 feet of collision at Texas airport, investigators say

A Southwest passenger jet and a FedEx cargo plane came as close as 100 feet from colliding Saturday at the main airport in Texas' capital, and it was a pilot — not air traffic controllers — who averted disaster, a top federal investigator says.
2 days ago
In this handout photo provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Nathan Lee Chasing ...
Rio Yamat, Associated Press

‘Dances With Wolves’ actor charged in Nevada sex abuse case

Former “Dances With Wolves” actor Nathan Chasing Horse has been formally charged in Nevada with eight felonies and two misdemeanors.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Crews search rubble after 6 die at Illinois Amazon facility