EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Lawyers will file a lawsuit Monday against online retailer Amazon on behalf of the family of delivery driver Austin McEwen, who was killed Dec. 10, 2021, when a tornado struck the facility where he was working.
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.
McEwen was one of six people killed when the Amazon distribution center collapsed.
The other fives 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; and46-year-old Larry E. Virden of Collinsville, Illinois.
Forty-five Amazon workers were able to get out of the warehouse safely, with one airlifted to a hospital for treatment.
The lawsuit accuses Amazon of forcing McEwen and others to work when management knew conditions were unsafe after tornado warnings had been issued. McEwen was also told to continue working instead of evacuating when the possibility of a serious tornado was apparent, the suit alleges.
In the aftermath of the tornado, Amazon officials said there was a designated shelter in the warehouse where workers could 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. However, seven people, including McEwen gathered in a bathroom on the south side of the facility.
Attorneys for the McEwen family claim the facility had no basement shelter and no safety plan or adequate emergency plan as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
OSHA launched an investigation into the building collapse and workplace safety within days of the tragedy.