EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – At least two investigations are underway into the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville where six people died Friday when a tornado tore through the building. Clean-up is continuing at the warehouse just off I-255.
Everyone who was in the building when the tornado struck has been accounted for. Amazon officials said there is a designated safe area on the north side of the building. That side of the warehouse is still standing. 39 of the 46 workers in the building at the time made it to that north side. Seven did not.
OSHA, the federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration, has opened an investigation. Compliance officers are checking for potential violations of workplace health and safety rules. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker toured the site Monday. He said there’s also an investigation into the design of the building, plus state and local building codes, to make sure they are up to date to deal with changing climate conditions.
As the inquiries unfold, FOX 2 has learned more about the six workers who were killed. They ranged in age from 26 to 62, and they all had their own life stories.
The victims were identified as 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.
The family of Etheria Hebb says she was a mother of a 1-year-old little boy, the youngest of her siblings, and a hard worker who loved her family dearly.
Her cousin says she was named after her.
“A part of me is missing. We called each other ‘Little Etheria’ and ‘Big Etheria.’ It won’t be the same without her,” Etheria Hudson said.
Hebb had just transferred to Amazon’s Edwardsville location about six months ago from the Hazelwood facility.
“She was an outgoing person. She was just sweet as can be. Just a tragic thing to lose her like this. It’s really heartbreaking. I know it can happen to anyone, but to someone so sweet and full of life,” Hudson said.
Meanwhile, the family of Kevin Dickey released the following statement:
We are devasted at the toll this natural disaster has taken on our community and the entire Midwest. Our hearts are with the other families who have also lost loved ones.
We want to thank first responders for their efforts as well as the other heroes who were on the scene to help others get to safety. Dad talked often about his co-workers and their daily stories, he had a great bond with many.
Dad was a kind man that loved spending time with his family. He stole the show and hearts of his grandchildren anytime he was around. He will be truly missed. We have lost a very special person.
Clay Cope from Alton served for six years in the Navy and was a maintenance worker at Amazon.
“He texted me every day to tell me that he loved me, ever since he went into the military, cause I made him. So, I won’t get that anymore,” Cope’s mother Carla Cope said.
Amazon delivery driver Craig Yost was also in the warehouse when the tornado hit. It took three hours to get Yost out from underneath a concrete wall. He was airlifted to SLU Hospital where he talked with FOX 2 about surviving the terrifying experience.
“A lot of sadness but a lot of happiness because I’m glad to be alive. I was insanely lucky,” Yost said. “I believe that because I wasn’t far away from any of those who weren’t as lucky and could’ve easily been one of them”.
Amazon officials said all workers do go through disaster preparedness training and that all procedures were followed correctly. Amazon plans to rebuild right here.