EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Authorities and Amazon executives have released more details about a warehouse that collapsed in Edwardsville, Illinois, after a tornado hit, killing six workers and seriously injuring another.
Everyone who was in the building at the time had been accounted for, authorities said Monday. The process of returning control of the site to Amazon is underway.
“Six individuals clocked in on Friday and they never came home,” Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker said during a press conference. “Please join me in a moment of silence and a moment of prayer for the injured and those lost in this terrible tragedy.”
Three days after the tornado hit, Amazon officials revealed more about the workers’ response to the tornado warnings.
There is a designated “safe area” on the north side of the 1.1 million-square-foot fulfillment center. The north side is still standing and was largely undamaged, said Amazon Senior Vice-President of Global Deliveries, Jon Feldman.
Thirty-nine of the 46 workers in the building made it to that north side. Seven did not.
“There was a siren. There were alerts on phones,” said Amazon spokeswoman, Kelly Nantel. “For our end, our leaders immediately took to notifying (the workers with) bullhorns. They were using radios to get people to the shelter in place location.”
“All procedures were followed correctly,” Feldman said. “The thing I want to emphasize is the heroic nature of all 46 people that were in this building. They definitely saved lives.”
Amazon also provided the following information:
- The building is a delivery station which opened in July 2020.
- Workers are allowed to keep their phones with them, though there are safety restrictions on using them while working.
- Workers get emergency response training, which is reinforced through drills and other means throughout the year.
- The site got tornado warnings between 8:06 p.m. and 8:16 p.m., and site leaders directed people on site to immediately take shelter. The tornado struck at 8:27 p.m.
- There were 46 people onsite in total. Seven were Amazon employees, and 39 were partners.
- Impact to holiday deliveries is minimal; Amazon has a large enough footprint in the region to continue delivering for our customers; the building and destroyed Amazon delivery vehicles are mostly empty at the time of evening on a Friday
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation.
“OSHA has had compliance officers at the complex since Saturday, Dec. 11, to provide assistance,” Scott Allen, a spokesperson for the Department of Labor, said in a statement. “OSHA has six months to complete its investigation, issue citations, and propose monetary penalties if violations of workplace safety and or health regulations are found. No further information will be available until OSHA has completed their investigation.”
There’s also an investigation into the building’s design, plus state and local building codes, to make sure they are armed for a changing climate that now brings Spring-like temperatures and deadly tornados at times when there used to be snow, according to Gov. Pritzker.
“I’m genuinely concerned for the families here who, just in an instant, lost six of our community members,” Pritzker said. “There’s nothing that can bring them back but the community is coming together now. I’m very proud of that fact. While we cannot prevent natural disasters we can strive to prevent future tragedies and ensure that all Illinoisans make it home safely at the end of their shift.”
The building is surrounded by similarly constructed warehouses. Issues with flooding prevented them from including safe areas below ground, the governor said.
Jim Mundy, CEO of Contegra Construction, which built the facility, emailed a statement to FOX 2:
“We at Contegra Construction were deeply saddened to learn about the partial collapse of the Amazon facility in Edwardsville during the tornado event Friday evening with its tragic consequences. Edwardsville is our home, and our prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to the families of those who died or were injured during the severe storm.”
Amazon is donating $1 million to the Edwardsville Community Foundation, which is assisting those who have been impacted.
The governor urged people to do the same with online donations at www.edwardsvillecommunityfoundation.org.
Amazon was also providing paid time off workers at the site as well as rental cars for those whose vehicles were damaged or destroyed there.