Amazon Warehouse Hit by Killer Tornado Only ‘Pegged’ to Ground

  • The family of Austin McEwan, who died in an Amazon warehouse collapse, is suing the company. 
  • Lawyer, Jack Casciato, alleges that the Amazon warehouse was not securely attached to the ground. 
  • He also slammed Jeff Bezos for not visiting the scene, “Thanks for the tweet, but that’s not enough.”

Amazon is facing a wrongful death lawsuit from one of the families bereaved in the December 10 warehouse collapse in Illinois, which occurred when a tornado, which reached wind speeds of up to 150 mph, devastated the building and killed six workers.

The lawyer representing the bereaved family of Austin McEwen, 26, who died in an Illinois warehouse collapse, alleges that the warehouse was not sufficiently attached to the ground.

The McEwen family and attorney Jack Casciato, partner at Chicago’s Clifford Law Offices, are suing Amazon, as well as Contegra and Tristor, two development companies responsible for the warehouse structure, on four counts of wrongful death, including negligence charges. 

Austin McEwan, a delivery driver for Amazon who died in the Edwardsville warehouse collapse

Austin McEwen, a delivery driver for Amazon who died in the Edwardsville warehouse collapse

Clifford Law Offices

Telling Insider about the depth of the lawsuit, filed January 18 at Madison County State Court, Casciato said that a team informs it of climatologists, safety specialists, and structural engineers, all working to understand how the Amazon warehouse collapsed. 

Casciato also told Insider that the investigation had revealed that the columns holding up the warehouse may not have been properly fixed into the ground — and just “pegged” in — allowing them to be blown up and out of the ground, killing the six victims of the collapse. 

He added that the employees were not run through tornado safety drills, making the warehouse collapse a “chaotic scene.”

Casciato noted the lack of appropriate storm shelters in the warehouse, highlighting that Amazon sells such shelters. 

“How can you have a 1 million square foot warehouse without appropriate shelters. [Amazon is] the richest corporation in the world. How can they not have a warehouse with appropriate shelters?

“Amazon even sells FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) compliant storm shelters on your website, but you can’t use them to protect your employees,” he said to Insider.

amazon warehouse illinois

Recovery operations continue after the partial collapse of an Amazon Fulfillment Center in Edwardsville, Illinois on December 12, 2021.

Tim Vizer/AFP via Getty Images

The McEwen family — who is the first of the bereaved families to file a lawsuit — say that “we hope, along with the other families who lost loved ones, to get the answers we deserve. We know those answers will only come by filing a lawsuit.”

Family ‘disappointed’ by Jeff Bezos ‘placing profit over safety’

Casciato told Insider that the family is “disappointed” that Jeff Bezos was “able to go to Space, but not able to take his corporate private jet and fly to Edwardsville and at least meet the people who lost their loved ones, the people who work for you and help advance your company.” 


“Thanks for the tweet, but that’s not enough,” Casciato added in his conversation with Insider. 

Casciato also told Insider that the fact that McEwen, as well as other workers that day, were forced to work during a tornado was a sign of “profits taking precedence over safety.”

Casciato added that Amazon attempted to offer the McEwen family money immediately after their son’s death. It was rejected as the corporation trying to “butter up” the bereaved. 

In a statement, Alice and Randy McEwen — parents of Austin McEwen — said that “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. Our condolences go out to the other families. We know with patience we will receive the answers and justice our son deserves.”

Speaking at a video press conference on Monday, Austin McEwen’s family recounted the life of their late son, saying the Amazon delivery driver was set to get married to his long-term girlfriend.

Austin’s mother, Alice McEwen,  described her son as a “very loved individual” with a “love for life.” He spent his spare time hunting, playing baseball, hockey, and traveling with his girlfriend of five years.

An Amazon spokesperson told Insider the company would 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.

Questions on how the disaster occurred have also been asked by a high-profile group of US lawmakers, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They sent a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and Founder Jeff Bezos on December 20 demanding answers about the collapse.

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