The family of an Amazon driver who died when a tornado hit one of the company’s warehouses in Illinois late last year has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the retail giant .
Six workers died at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois in December after a tornado hit the facility. On Monday, the family of Austin McEwen, a 26-year-old delivery driver, filed a lawsuit in Illinois state court alleging that Amazon had independent workers and contractors like McEwen working “until ‘Moments before the EF-3 tornado obliterated the subject ‘fulfillment center’ in Edwardsville.
The lawsuit continues that Amazon “failed” to evacuate people from the fulfillment center; monitor the tornado path and implement safety procedures; have a shelter in the basement; and tell the people in the center the safest place to take shelter.
Amazon “recklessly instructed individuals, including the deceased, Austin McEwen, to continue working until the moments before the tornado, when the defendant knew or should have known that a tornado was imminent,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also names Contegra Construction, the developer of the warehouse, and Tristar Properties, a real estate buyer, as defendants in the lawsuit. The suit is asking Amazon for $100,000.
“The initial reports from those who survived this preventable tragedy are disturbing. We certainly intend to find out what precautions Amazon could have taken to save lives. Certainly, this entire facility could have been evacuated when it was believed that a tornado was on the way. It appears the benefits of the vacation have taken precedence over safety,” Jack J. Casciato, a partner at Clifford Law Offices, which represents McEwen’s family, said in a statement. “We need to know if training and emergency protocols were in place for those in the building as well as those entering the building with jobs regularly connected to Amazon outside of the facility.”
Amazon defended itself in a statement to The Associated Press.
“This was a new building less than four years old, built to all applicable building codes, and local crews were closely monitoring weather conditions,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said. , to the media. “Extreme weather watches are common in this part of the country and, although precautions are taken, are not cause for most businesses to close. We believe our team did the right thing as soon as a warning was issued.
Shortly after the tornado hit the facility, six Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y. ) sent a letter to Amazon executives seeking answers about what happened there and whether the company’s policies “may have contributed to this tragedy.”
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*First published: January 18, 2022, 8:17 a.m. CST
Andrew Wyrich is the Daily Dot’s assistant technical editor. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).