Jack Casciato, partner at Clifford Law Offices and attorney representing the family of a delivery driver for Amazon who was killed during a tornado at its Edwardsville, Illinois facility, discovered through a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request that government-mandated engineers immediately dispatched to the scene after a deadly tornado discovered supporting columns improperly and inadequately holding up the 115,00-foot structure. Also, within three days of filing the initial Complaint in January, Amazon posted a job offer on LinkedIn looking for a “detail-oriented Chief Meteorologist at Amazon’s Global Security Operation Center in Goodyear, Arizona.”
The government structural engineer who took photos wrote in his report on the day of the tornado, Dec. 10, 2021, that supporting columns that had collapsed inward from the winds, “I noted that a considerable number of the columns were not standing a [sic] appeared to have been lifted out of the floor. Allen Smith [a fellow professional engineer/Structures Specialist from St. Louis UASI – Urban Area Security Initiative — Strike Team 4] noticed the same thing and described it accurately as a peg coming out of a hole.”
These support columns that are to be anchored to the ground hold up the trusses that are used to secure the roof. The structural engineer goes on to say, “I became concerned when I noticed that none of the columns appeared to be ripped or torn from the base. This was especially concerning to me knowing that the International Building Code (IBC) requires structural members to be secured against uplift from wind loads, among other things (2021 IBC Section 1604.8.1). Looking at the base of the columns more closely, I could find no weld or bolted connection at the base of any column, but only a bead of what appeared to be some sort of caulk around the column at the finished floor line. … we were very concerned about the stability of the remaining walls and suspended steelwork.”
Six people died huddled in a bathroom during that Dec. 10, 2021 tornado in downstate Illinois. Among those killed was Austin McEwen, age 26, who through text messages to his family said he was told to return to the warehouse and continue working, despite increasing warnings for up to as much as a day that a tornado was headed to Edwardsville. The tragedy occurred during the busy holiday delivery season.
“There is no excuse when it comes to the safety of workers and the lives of those who work at Amazon who were unable to protect themselves,” Casciato said.
Casciato filed a lawsuit against Amazon in January in downstate Illinois state court on behalf of the McEwen family. Despite ample weather warnings and repeated severe weather alerts as early as the day before, Amazon instructed its employees to continue working through the storm, leaving only moments for workers to seek shelter in inadequate areas. Employee accounts of the tornado, including some chilling 9-1-1 calls that have been made public, express confusion, disorganization, and terror inside the facility.
“There was an apparent lack of emergency training, evacuation drills, or access to appropriate storm shelters because they were non-existent,” Casciato said. “The McEwen family is very concerned that this type of tragedy doesn’t happen again to others in Tornado Alley in downstate Illinois or in any other ill-equipped Amazon facilities around the world and feels that Amazon could have done more to save their son.”
The McEwen family is suing Amazon, as well as the construction, design, and engineering companies who were responsible for the architecture and development of the warehouse. The family expressed its hopes that this lawsuit brings justice to all the families who have been affected by this tragedy and its intent to hold Amazon accountable for its lack of proper care for its workers. Amazon reportedly has 110 similar distribution centers around the country.
Jack Casciato, partner at Clifford Law Offices, will be holding a Zoom press conference Tuesday, April 12th at 9 a.m. CST to discuss the latest developments uncovered in the Amazon tragedy. To join the press conference and to obtain a copy of the FOIA report obtained by Clifford Law Offices, go to:
Clifford Law Offices is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom Press Conference.
When: Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Topic: News Conference
Time: 9 a.m. Central Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 879 3942 2757
Click here to hear some of the 9-1-1 calls.
For further information, please contact Clifford Law Offices Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell).