EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – The recovery process continues in Edwardsville, Illinois after an EF-3 tornado tore through the local Amazon facility Friday evening. The fire department is still working to clear debris from the site and working with representatives of Amazon to account for all their personnel.
Representatives of Amazon are on-site and assisting with the search process. They shared more information Monday about the facility and the people inside at the time of the tornado. OSHA has also launched an investigation.
The Madison County Coroner’s Office has identified the victims of Friday night’s tornado that ripped through the facility.
The victims are 28-year-old Deandre S. Morrow of St. Louis; 62-year-old Kevin D. Dickey of Carlyle, Illinois; 29-year-old Clayton Lynn Cope of Alton, Illinois; 34-year-old Etheria S. Hebb of St. Louis; 46-year-old Larry E. Virden of Collinsville, Illinois; and 26-year-old Austin J. McEwen of Edwardsville.
Monday morning, Gov. JB Pritzker held a press conference to issue a disaster proclamation.
Amazon officials were also on hand and explained there was one designated Shelter in Place in the warehouse for people to take cover. Kelly Nantel, director of media relations for Amazon, said generally it is an interior spot where there are no windows. She said 39 people gathered in that area on the north side of the building.
Nantel said the other 7 people gathered on the south side of the building not in the designated Shelter in Place.
“A small handful, and we speculate it was because of the work they were doing at the time, they congregated on the southern side of the facility,” said Nantel.
“We just really want to express our deepest condolences to the family members of those who were lost in this terrible tragedy. We lost six members of the Amazon family and we’re doing everything we can to support them,” said Nantel said previously. “We’re reaching out to those family members ourselves and we want to make sure that we’re taking really good care of them.”
Nantel said Amazon has made a $1 million donation to the Edwardsville Community Foundation to deploy resources and help this community get back on its feet.
“Our focus really has been taking care of our staff, our employees, and our partners and making sure they have what they need. We’ve been taking care of transportation, making sure that they have food and water and all of those resources,” she said.
The tornado, with top winds estimated at 155 miles per hour, ripped the roof off the Amazon facility just after 8:30 p.m. and caused the building to collapse on itself.
Images of the tornado’s aftermath are indescribable. The National Weather Service’s survey found EF-3 damage. However, the survey is ongoing and the tornado’s rating may increase.
“Watching that tornado come down and just go right back up was spine-shaking,” said Angela Potter, an assistant manager at Pontoon Express.
Potter is no stranger to tornados; upon hearing the sirens, she took her daughters to the basement.
“I had some people that live close so I was worried about them. All the Amazon families that were involved, it could have been anyone of my customers. It could have been anybody I knew. So I was, you know, I was fearful and panicked,” she said.
Her boyfriend was working at a FedEx facility not too far from Amazon’s facility.
“And they got sent to a safety shelter for a few hours,” Potter said. Much to her relief, he was then sent home.
Right now, everyone in the community is doing what they can to help.
“I know there’s lots of different organizations out there that are helping right now. So, I think everybody’s just trying to come together as a community and help,” Potter said.
The City of Edwardsville says that anyone wishing to report a relative that may be missing from this incident should contact the Edwardsville Police Department at 618-656-2131. Information regarding a missing person will be gathered and directed to the Office of the Coroner who will coordinate efforts to locate and account for anyone still believed missing.
Any residents that have significant damage to their home or property can contact the United Way by calling 211 and a representative will collect the needed information and direct it to the proper authorities. GoFundMe has identified verified fundraising pages to support individuals and families affected by the tornados.