EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — A roof and long section of wall at an Amazon warehouse near Edwardsville collapsed from tornado damage Friday night, killing six people.
During a news conference Saturday evening, police confirmed six people had died. One person was airlifted to the hospital.
The National Weather Service of St. Louis announced Saturday afternoon it had found damage from a tornado that rated at least EF-3 at the facility. NWS noted the survey is ongoing, so the rating could increase.
Search and rescue operations were continuing, Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford said during the briefing.
The Madison County Coroner, Stephen Nonn, positively identified the victims on Sunday morning, and the Edwardsville Police Department released their names:
- Deandre S. Morrow, 28, of St. Louis, Missouri
- Kevin D. Dickey, 62, of Carlyle, Illinois
- Clayton Lynn Cope, 29, of Alton, Illinois
- Etheria S. Hebb, 34, of St. Louis, Missouri
- Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville, Illinois
- Austin J. McEwen, 26, of Edwardsville, Illinois
Whiteford says 45 people were rescued, but now their efforts are now focused solely on recovery, which will take about three more days.
Officials say they are unable to determine the number of people still missing. A shift change was happening during the collapse, so Amazon told rescuers they did not have an exact count of employees at the site.
Crews will be moving to ten-hour search periods, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., to stay within daylight hours.
Illinois Governor Pritzker said the state was providing anything needed for the recovery.
Amazon issued a statement Saturday night, thanking first responders and committing to supporting employees.
“We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, IL. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado. We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on scene. We’re continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in the area.” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
At least 100 emergency vehicles descended on the scene Friday night to reports of workers trapped inside the warehouse located about 25 miles east of St. Louis. The call came in around 8:35 p.m. and crews were on scene 6 minutes later, according to Whiteford.
Walls on both sides of the building collapsed inward and the roof fell down. Officials say the concrete walls were 40 feet tall and about the length of a football field.
Watch the full press conference below:
At the news conference, Pritzker said he, along with other Governors who experienced severe weather Friday night, spoke to President Biden and can assure there will be federal funds available to help.
Edwardsville Mayor, Art Risavy, thanked the governor for an immediate response for disaster and recovery efforts.
Photos: Storm damages Amazon warehouse distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois
A reunification center was set up at the nearby Pontoon Beach police station and Madison County Corner's Office. You can also reach out to Edwardsville Police Department if you're looking for a loved one.
Friday night, Sarah Biermann said she last talked to her husband, Amazon employee Austin McEwen, at about 8 p.m. Friday when he was dropping off his van.
"I decided to come down here to see what was going on and I had no idea the building looked that bad. And I'm just worried sick," Biermann said, adding that she couldn't get ahold of anybody including managers.
By about 2:30 a.m., Biermann said police asked her and McEwen's two sons to leave the scene. McEwen was named as one of the victims Sunday morning.
Amazon driver Thomas Dewalt said he arrived at the warehouse five minutes after the storm.
"The building was already torn apart," Dewalt said. "The front corner of the building was still intact but the back corner of the building to the right side was caved in." He said the caved-in area was where he normally checks in and gets his bag and van keys.
“The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now,” Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement Friday night. “We’re assessing the situation and will share additional information when it’s available.”
Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Public Health were among the agencies offering assistance.