The family of a delivery driver killed last month when a tornado wrecked an Amazon warehouse in Illinois is suing the e-commerce giant, arguing it should’ve done more to protect its employees during the historic storms that swept across the country in December.
Austin McEwen, 26, was one of six Amazon employees who died when a twister hit an Amazon facility in the city of Edwardsville.
“Sadly, it appears that Amazon placed profits first during this holiday season instead of the safety of our son and the other five,” his mother Alice McEwen said at a news conference Monday.
The McEwens have argued the company was pushing employees to keep working “up to the point of no return,” as the company “carelessly required individuals … to continue working up until the moments before the tornado struck,” the lawsuit reads.
There were warnings for at least 36 hours that severe weather was heading towards Edwardsville, and the tornado struck during a shift change at the facility.
The company has denied wrongdoing, saying the family “misunderstands key facts” about the weather alerts and condition of the building at the time of the disaster. Amazon says it got employees to shelter just minutes after it became clear a tornado would be making contact with the building.
“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,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told the AP.
“Severe weather watches are common in this part of the country and, while precautions are taken, are not cause for most businesses to close down. We believe our team did the right thing as soon as a warning was issued.”
Amazon employees across the country have said they’ve been called to work amid extreme weather conditions.
The collapse in Edwardsville wasn’t the only tragedy to come from the spate of late 2021 tornadoes.
They also struck a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, killing at least eight people, and leaving those alive with trauma and injuries.