EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV.com) – The family of a 26-year-old delivery driver who was killed when a tornado hit an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville is filing a lawsuit.
Back at the scene where a devastating tornado ripped through an Edwardsville Amazon Warehouse, family, friends and other people throughout the St. Louis region gathered together to honor six lives.
A lawsuit will be filed on behalf of the family of Austin McEwen Monday, attorneys announced Sunday afternoon. McEwen drove for a company contracted out by Amazon for deliveries. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon management knew conditions were unsafe as tornado warnings had been issued, but required employees to keep working instead of having them evacuate.
The lawsuit also alleges the warehouse had no basement even though it is in an area prone to tornadoes; the family also accuses the company of having an inadequate safety plan.
Jack Casciato, an attorney at Clifford Law Offices who is representing McEwen’s family, said he believes Amazon should be held responsible for Austin McEwen’s death.
“One of the interesting facts that needs to be looked into is whether Amazon placed profits over safety here,” Casciato said, whose law office is based out of Chicago.
An OSHA investigation into the facility could take six months.
Clayton Cope, Kevin Dickey, Etheria Hebb, Deandre Morrow, Larry Virden and McEwen died when the tornado hit on December 10. An 84-year-old woman was killed the same night when a tornado touched down in St. Charles County.
Casciato and McEwen’s parents, Alice and Randy McEwen, held a press conference at noon on Monday to discuss the lawsuit. The McEwens said they hired Casciato after reading countless articles on how Amazon knew the tornado was coming but made the decision to have the workers continue to work instead of evacuating.
“We hope along with the other families who lost loved ones to get the answers we deserve. We know those answers will come only by filing a lawsuit,” said Alice McEwen.
The family described Austin as a wonderful son who was a very loved individual. “We looked forward to seeing him get married, have children of his own and celebrate life’s milestones in the years to come. This was all taken from us,” Alice McEwen said.
A spokesperson from Amazon released the following statement:
This 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. The truth is that 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. 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, and they worked to move people to safety as quickly as possible. We will defend against this lawsuit, but our 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.
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