Family of tornado victim sues Amazon over Illinois warehouse collapse


The family of a delivery driver who died last month when a tornado collapsed Amazon’s central Illinois facility where he worked has filed a wrongful death lawsuittrialMonday in Madison County.

The suit on behalf of Austin McEwen, 26, claims that Amazon failed to warn employees of hazardous weather conditions or provide safe shelter before a tornado hit the Edwardsville facility on December 10, killing McEwen and five others.

It is believed to be the first legal action brought in response to the deaths. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation.

McEwen’s parents, Randy and Alice McEwen, say Amazon administrators knew severe weather was imminent, but had no contingency plan or evacuated workers from the fulfillment center.

“Unfortunately, it appears Amazon has put profits first this holiday season instead of the safety of our son and five others,” Alice McEwen said at a press conference on Monday.

Amazon “recklessly demanded individuals … continue to work until the moments before the tornado struck,” the lawsuit says, and “misdirected” McEwen and his colleagues to take shelter in a room of rest, which the company says knew or should have known was not safe. .

“They had people working to the point of no return,” said Jack Casciato, the McEwens’ lawyer, partner at Clifford Law Offices.

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel released a statement that countered that the lawsuit “misunderstands key facts,” including the differences between severe weather alerts and building status and safety.

“This was a new building less than four years old, built to all applicable building codes, and local crews were closely monitoring weather conditions,” Nantel said. “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.

The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 from each of the four defendants named in the lawsuit, which includes, the construction company that built the facility and the developer of the project.

Nantel said the company would defend against the lawsuit, but would continue to focus on “supporting our employees and partners, the families who have lost loved ones, the surrounding community and everyone affected by the tornadoes.”

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