The family of an Amazon driver killed in a tornado warehouse collapse is suing the company

The family of an Amazon driver killed in a tornado warehouse collapse is suing the company
The site of a roof collapse at an distribution centre a day after a series of tornadoes dealt a blow to several US states, in Edwardsville, Illinois,December 11, 2021.REUTERS/Drone Base
  • The family of an Amazon driver who died after a tornado hit an Illinois warehouse is suing the company.
  • The lawsuit says Amazon had enough warning that severe weather could hit the building, but failed to evacuate.

The family of an Amazon driver who died last month after a tornado hit a warehouse is suing the tech giant.

Amazon driver Austin McEwen was one of six people who died after a tornado struck an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois on December 10, 2021 causing the building to partially collapse.

McEwen's mother, Alice McEwen, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Amazon as well as the warehouse's developer Contegra Construction and real estate acquirer Tristar Properties.

The lawsuit says Amazon should have known a tornado was possible as early as the previous day due to weather notices, and that it kept workers inside the warehouse until "moments before" the tornado hit.

The lawsuit says that the company failed to evacuate workers, and McEwen was directed to take shelter in a bathroom. Insider's Katherine Long reported 911 calls showed workers were told to take shelter in bathrooms.


According to the lawsuit, McEwen's mother, who is the administrator of his estate, is asking for $100,000 from Amazon.

"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," Alice McEwen told reporters during a press conference on Monday, as reported by CNN.

Jack Casciato, a partner at the law firm representing McEwen, told CNN: "The question Amazon will have to answer is: 'Why were these workers present at this facility?'"

An Amazon spokesperson told Insider the company will defend against the lawsuit.

"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," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement sent to Insider.


She added that 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."

"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," said Nantel.

The collapse of the Edwardsville warehouse is currently the subject of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation. OSHA has six months to complete the investigation.

McEwen's mother is also seeking $50,000 each from Contegra and Tristar. Contegra and Tristar did not respond when sent emails for comment out of hours by Insider.