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13 Dec, 2021 15:09

New details emerge on fatal Amazon warehouse collapse during tornado

New details emerge on fatal Amazon warehouse collapse during tornado

An Illinois Amazon warehouse worker’s girlfriend claimed in an interview on Sunday that her boyfriend had not been allowed to leave his work site during Friday’s storm. He later died when the building collapsed in the tornado.

Cherie Jones had dated Larry Virden, a US Army veteran, for 13 years. She told the New York Post her boyfriend had kept in regular contact with her, telling her in a text message on Friday that Amazon “won’t let me leave until the storm blows over.” Jones and Virden had lived together in Collinsville, which is approximately 13 minutes away from the warehouse.

According to Jones, who shared three children with Virden, the SMS was sent less than 20 minutes before the tornado made landfall. Jones said she had texted Virden that the only sign of the storm near their home was lightning. 

Friday’s tornado tore through multiple states, hitting Kentucky hardest, where it caused scores of deaths and destroyed thousands of homes. 

Jones told the Post she felt Amazon was “not really” to blame for Virden’s death, but the decision to keep him in place made her wonder, “What if?”

“It’s that what-if situation,” she said. “What if they would have let him leave? He could have made it home.” 

According to Amazon, the Edwardsville warehouse where Virden worked had received tornado warnings and was working to shelter everyone in place in a designated area. The company is donating $1 million to the Edwardsville Community Foundation, and a spokesperson offered “thoughts and prayers” to the “victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado.”

At least six people in the warehouse were killed. The site employs around 190 people and approximately 100 were in the building during the tornado. Employees told Reuters they had been directed by managers to shelter in the bathrooms and had remained there for over two hours. 

“I was just getting in the building and they started screaming, ‘Shelter in place!’” David Kosiak, who had worked at the warehouse for three months, said. “We were in the bathrooms. That's where they sent us.”