The parents of an Amazon warehouse Illinois Tornado victim are suing the company over the alleged wrongful death of their son, Austin McEwen.
An EF-3 tornado hit the Edwardsville location on December 10th, 2021, resulting in significant structural damage and killing six employees. And the McEwens claim that Amazon, its construction company, and the real estate developer failed to protect the workers.
The McEwens seek more than $50,000 from the defendants.
According to a copy of the lawsuit, 26-year-old Austin was an independent contractor who made deliveries for the company. And when the storm hit, he took shelter in a bathroom.
In a Zoom press conference today, his mother, Alice McEwen, said that the managers did not evacuate their employees in time because they were focused on fulfilling orders.
“It appears that Amazon placed profits first during this holiday season instead of the safety of our son and the other five families who lost loved ones,” she said.
The lawsuit states that the company “carelessly required individuals … to continue working up until the moments before the tornado struck. Furthermore, it claims that the bosses “improperly directed” Austin and his co-workers to the restroom. And the lawyers believe that the company knew, or should have known, that they weren’t safe.
Amazon Will Fight the Lawsuit That Claims Wrongful Death After Illinois Tornado
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said that the company will fight the suit. And she added that the company’s focus “continues to be on supporting our employees and partners, the families who lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and all those affected by the tornadoes.”
Nantel defended the e-commerce giant by saying Illinois commonly sees severe weather watches. Because of that, most businesses do not shut down over them.
“[The] lawsuit misunderstands key facts, such as the difference between various types of severe weather and tornado alerts, as well as the condition and safety of the building,” she said. “This was a new building less than four years old, built in compliance with all applicable building codes. And the local teams were following the weather conditions closely,” Nantel said.
When reporters asked if managers told the workers to take shelter in the bathroom, Nantel refused to comment.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation into the collapse of the Edwardsville Warehouse last month. According to the agency, which investigates workplace safety incidents, it has six months to finish.
The tornado collapsed entire sections of the fulfillment warehouse. And it was so powerful that it even twisted metal and left pieces around neighboring homes.
The law firm representing the McEwans told CNN business that Amazon knew severe weather was headed to the area 24 hours in advance. And throughout December 10th, the threat only worsened.
“The question Amazon will have to answer is: ‘Why were these workers present at this facility?'” parter Jack Casciato said.