Amazon Sued For Worker Death In Deadly Tornado Strike

storm cloud disaster tornado road © solarseven Shutterstock

Parents sue Amazon for wrongful death, after son was among six workers killed when Amazon distribution centre was flattened by tornado

Parents of Austin McEwen have launched a lawsuit against Amazon and other firms, over the alleged wrongful death of their son, aged 26.

Austin McEwen was one of six victims who died last month, when a tornado with estimated wind speeds of over 155mph smashed into the Amazon warehouse, known as DLI4, in Edwardsville, Illinois, causing the roof of the building to collapse.

It was reported that besides the six fatalities, one other person was injured, and 45 people were rescued safely by local fire and emergency responders.

Image credit: Amazon
Image credit: Amazon

Amazon lawsuit

Tornados at the same time also impacted parts of the neighbouring state of Illinois, (below Chicago), and killed at least 64 people in the US state of Kentucky.

Now CNN has reported that the parents of Austin McEwen on Monday launched a lawsuit against Amazon, a construction company and real estate developer associated with the facility.

The DLI4 facility only opened in July 2020 and was spread over 1.1 million square feet. It employed approximately 190 people who provided last-mile delivery to customers.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are already investigating the Amazon warehouse collapse.

OSHA has six months to complete its investigation, issue citations and propose monetary penalties if violations of workplace safety and/or health regulations are found.

McEwen’s parents in their lawsuit allege that the defendants failed to exercise reasonable care to protect workers like their son from sustaining injuries or death.

McEwen worked as an independent contractor making deliveries for Amazon, and had sought shelter in a bathroom at the facility. This is where most of the Amazon fatalities happened.

During the press conference, held over Zoom, Alice McEwen, Austin’s mother and the administrator of his estate, was quoted by CNN as saying thjat Amazon opted not to evacuate workers from the facility in a timely manner as it sought to keep them 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 reportedly said.

Severe weather

But Amazon disagrees with this assessment.

In a statement to CNN Business Monday, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said the company will defend against the lawsuit while adding that Amazon’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 reportedly said 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 also noted that while severe weather watches are common in the area, it is not typical for businesses to shut down operations in anticipation of severe storms.