Inside horror of Illinois Amazon warehouse collapse in tornado as 911 call reveals workers used bathrooms as shelters

HERE'S a look inside the horror of an Illinois Amazon warehouse collapse as a 911 call revealed the workers inside used bathrooms as shelters during a deadly tornado.

The tornado, which had peak winds of 155 miles per hour, killed six factory workers in Edwardsville, Illinois, and trapped 100 workers inside on Friday, December 10, 2021.

Days later, a 911 call from the building — which was obtained by Business Insider through a public record request from the Edwardsville Police Department, revealed the chaos that ensued inside.

An unidentified caller contacted 911 from a bathroom at the Edwardsville Amazon warehouse just minutes after a tornado passed through.

According to the report, the 911 caller, who was with two other women, said workers had to hide out in bathrooms, not the building's designated tornado shelter.

The three women, all delivery drivers, arrived at the warehouse at 8pm on Friday and were told to "go straight to the bathroom," the dispatcher learned.

The caller also noted that all three of the women were in a women's bathroom and huddled together as others were in the men's bathroom or in the center of the warehouse.

Following the tornado, which prompted the warehouse's 40-foot-high and 11-inch walls to crumble, the caller explained that she and the other women were "blocked in" and "underneath a bunch of rubble."

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She told the dispatcher: "I hear other people screaming but I don't know where they are. I'm so scared. Please help me." 

The caller then said one of the other women was "unresponsive."

The women were dug out from the rubble shortly after.

In total, at least forty-five people escaped the building alive and only seven of them worked for Amazon full time, Quartz reported.

Employees also told Reuters they were told to hide in the bathrooms when alerts came in about 40 minutes before the tornado hit.

In a statement to The Sun on Wednesday, Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said: "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."

In addition to thanking all first responders and their continued efforts, she said support will be ongoing for employees and partners of Amazon in the affected area.

In regards to how management at the company responded during the tornado warning, an Amazon spokesperson said: "Emergency response training is provided to new employees and that training is reinforced throughout the year.

"OSHA guidance clearly states to take shelter immediately when there’s a tornado warning.”

The spokesperson said leaders at the facility moved quickly to tell workers to take shelter immediately, which likely saved many lives.


Six Amazon warehouse workers — Clayton Hope, 29, Deandre S. Morrow, 28, Kevin D. Dickey, 62, Etheria S. Hebb, 34, Larry E. Virden, 46, and Austin J. McEwen, 26 — hit the Amazon facility.

Hope is a maintenance worker and Navy veteran who tried to warn colleagues.

“He just said he needed to tell someone that [the tornado] was coming,” his mother, Carla Cope, told The Daily Beast. He had a big heart and he was a very sweet man.”

Hope’s mother went to the warehouse after the storm passed on Friday, looking for her son. She learned hours later from authorities that her son didn’t make it.

McEwen, the youngest Amazon victim, was a driver with Amazon who reportedly died while sheltering in the bathroom with coworkers.

Friends said he was an only child who loved to hunt with his friends.

The family of Hebb described her as a new mother, according to the New York Post.

“She was a younger cousin of our generation so I always felt the big cuz/lil cuz bond, she was a new and dedicated mother, a naturally beautiful person from the heart all the way to her radient [sic] outer beauty,” her cousin Coerce Smith wrote on Facebook.

Navy veteran Virden’s girlfriend of 13 years, Cherie Jones, told the New York Post: “I got text messages from him. He always tells me when he is filling up the Amazon truck when he is getting ready to go back… I was like ‘OK I love you.'

"He’s like ‘well Amazon won’t let me leave until after the storm blows over.'"

The message was sent around 16 minutes before the storm touched down.

Virden had worked at Amazon for five months and was the dad of four kids, including adopted children. He also served in Iraq.


Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos was slammed after celebrating his Blue Origin space trip after the deadly collapse of one of his Amazon warehouses.

The billionaire took around 24 hours to publicly respond to the tragedy after the tornado hit.

After receiving flack from many on social media, Bezos finally gave a response following the incident, saying that he was “heartbroken.”

“The news from Edwardsville is tragic,” he wrote in a tweet. “We're heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones.

“All of Edwardsville should know that the Amazon team is committed to supporting them and will be by their side through this crisis.”

Bezos wrote that Amazon has extended their “fullest gratitude to all the incredible first responders who have worked so tirelessly at the site.”

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