Amazon workers criticize phone ban after deadly tornado hits warehouse

PICTURED: Five of the six Amazon workers killed after Illinois tornado destroyed warehouse – including Navy vet who died trying to save colleagues – while Bezos throws weekend PARTY at Beverly Hills mansion

  • A 29-year-old Navy vet was among those killed when a tornado slammed into an Edwardsville, Illinois Amazon warehouse
  • Ages of the victims, whose identities were released Sunday, range from 26 to 62 
  • Blue collar workers said they’re worried Amazon will reinstate a cell phone ban that could stop them for checking weather alerts or calling for help
  •  ‘If they institute the no cell phone policy, I am resigning,’ one worker said
  • At least 94 people were killed by the tornadoes and crews were searching for survivors Sunday

The sister of a Navy veteran killed after tornadoes toppled an Amazon warehouse says she’s furious the company didn’t do more to protect its employees.

Clayton Cope, 29, was among six Amazon workers confirmed dead Saturday after a series of tornadoes roared through a warehouse near St. Louis, ripping off its roof and causing 11-inch thick concrete walls longer than football fields to collapse on themselves.

His sister Rachel Cope said she’s angry that Amazon didn’t allow its workers to go to an emergency shelter after the first siren sounded.  

 ‘I’d want people to know that he died saving the lives of people in that building because of Amazon’s negligence to take the tornado sirens seriously and choosing the productivity of their company over their employees,’ Cope told DailyMail.com. 

‘My brother is a hero.’  

Amazon cargo driver Austin J. McEwen, 26, was also killed while trying to shelter during the tornado.

Other Amazon workers identified as dead by the local coroner were Deandre ‘Shawn’ Morrow, 28, of St. Louis, Missouri; Kevin D. Dickey, 62, of Carlyle, Illinois; Etheria S. Hebb, 24, of St. Louis, Missouri; and Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville, Illinois.     

Meantime, several warehouse employees said they’re worried Amazon’s controversial cell phone ban, which was temporarily lifted during the pandemic, would jeopardize safety. 

A tornado killed at least six Amazon workers at an Edwardsville, Illinois distribution center

Their fears were amplified after a tornado killed the Edwardsville workers.

Blue collar workers said in the aftermath of the disaster that they’re worried reinforcing the cell phone ban would prohibit them from checking weather alerts or calling for help during emergencies.

‘After these deaths, there is no way in hell I am relying on Amazon to keep me safe,’ said person, who works at an Amazon facility in Illinois, told Bloomberg.  ‘If they institute the no cell phone policy, I am resigning.’

Another worker said she wasn’t willing to lock away her cell phone while on the clock either. 

‘I don’t trust them with my safety to be quite frank,’ she told the outlet. ‘If there’s severe weather on the way, I think I should be able to make my own decision about safety.’ 


Clayton Cope, a US Navy veteran, was among those killed in the disaster



The Amazon workers killed include Clayton Cope (top left), Etheria S. Hebb (top right), Deandre S. Morrow (bottom left) and Larry Virden (bottom middle) and Austin J. McEwan (bottom right)

Siera Williams, a family friend of Hebb, said she was still struggling to fathom the tragedy that left her circle of friends shattered.

‘You’ve always been a beautiful soul to me,’ Williams said in a Facebook tribute. ‘Your smile lights up any room. Watch over us sleeping beauty.’

Dallas Feltman, a friend of McEwan, mourned the loss of on Facebook, saying he’ll cherish the memories they made together.

‘I’ll never forget your voice, your smile, or your love,’ he wrote. ‘I can only say this about a few, but I know he would of done absolutely anything for me and so many others. The brightness you brought upon our peers & the shine in your laughter will stay with us for the rest of our lives. 


A family friend said Hebb (pictured) could light up a room with her smile and has always been a ‘beautiful soul’

The powerful storm left some criticizing Amazon for its cell phone policy, which was temporarily lifted during the pandemic

In a prepared statement to DailyMail.com, Amazon said ’employees and drivers are allowed to have their cell phones.’

It did not elaborate on the company’s previous workplace ban on electronic devices, nor did she say whether Amazon still plans to reintroduce the rule.

‘If they institute the no cell phone policy, I am resigning.’

The Amazon workers were confirmed dead on Saturday after a series of tornadoes roared through a warehouse near St. Louis, ripping off its roof and causing 11-inch thick concrete walls longer than football fields to collapse on themselves.

Workers remove debris from Amazon’s fulfilment center after it was hit by the tornado

At least 45 Amazon employees made it out safely from the rubble of the 500,000-square-foot Edwardsville, Illinois, facility, fire chief James Whiteford said. 

Authorities had given up hope of finding more survivors as they shifted from rescue to recovery efforts that were expected to last days.

The 1.1 million square-foot facility employed about 190 employees for multiple shifts.

Amazon’s 1.1 million square-foot distribution facility is shown before and after the storm.

Authorities had given up hope of finding more survivors as they shifted from rescue to recovery efforts that were expected to last days.

The 1.1 million square-foot facility employed about 190 employees for multiple shifts.

Amazon said in its statement that it donated $1 million to the Edwardsville Community Foundation and was working with officials to identify ways of helping.  

‘We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm,’ said company spokesperson Kelly Nantel.

‘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.’

Billionaire Amazon owner Jeff Bezos carried on with his weekend plans in the aftermath  of a storm that killed at least 94 people and left towns in ruin. 

Aerial photos viewed by DailyMail.com show Bezos’ sprawling Beverly Hills backyard being prepped for an outdoor dinner party. A rectangular table covered in a red tablecloth was surrounded by about 16 chairs.

It wasn’t clear whether he attended the gathering; he was in West Texas on Saturday morning for a Blue Origin civilian space launch.

He was slammed on social media Saturday for celebrating the return of his latest space crew while dozens of Amazon workers remain trapped in rubble.

He also posted a photo to his Instagram before the space voyage, showing him and the crewmembers smiling, with the caption: ‘Happy crew this morning in the training center.’

Bezos made no mention of the loss of his employees’ lives throughout the morning, causing some on social media to slam the Amazon founder.

Aerial photos viewed by DailyMail.com show Bezos’ sprawling Beverly Hills backyard being prepped for an outdoor dinner party on Saturday. The home is pictured in this file photo

Bezos was slammed on social media Saturday for celebrating the return of his latest space crew while dozens of Amazon workers remain trapped in rubble

Bezos tweeted about the disaster Saturday, calling it ‘tragic.’ ‘He said: ‘We’re heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones.’

Bezos tweeted about the disaster Saturday, calling it ‘tragic.’

‘We’re heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones,’ he said.

One Twitter user, Joshua Dryer retweeted a video of Bezos celebrating with Strahan after the rocket landed, saying: ‘It’s really sickening, if you want my honest opinion.

‘Jeff Bezos has said absolutely NOTHING on the lives lost at his facility in Illinois after a catastrophic tornado left numerous workers trapped.

‘But sure, go play wannabe spacemen for 10 minutes. Unreal.’

User @red_baiting wrote that he was ‘really struggling with my rage since Jeff Bezos blasted his major carbon-polluting rocket this morning after Amazon workers died in a rare December tornado last night.’

 

Tornadoes ripped through six U.S. states Friday night, leaving a trail of death and destruction at homes and businesses stretching more than 200 miles.

The Amazon facility was hit about 8:38 p.m. central time, Whiteford said. 

The force of the winds was so severe the roof was ripped off and the building collapsed on itself.

Witnesses said workers were caught by surprise and forced to take shelter anywhere they could find.

‘I had a coworker that was sending me pictures when they were taking shelter in the bathroom, basically anywhere they could hide,’ said Alexander Bird, who works at a warehouse across the street.

‘People had to think on their feet quick.’

An Amazon employee looks at the damage of a roof collapse at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois on December 11

Amazon said all employees were normally notified and directed to move to a designated, marked shelter-in-place location when a site was made aware of a tornado warning in the area.

US rescuers desperately searched for survivors Sunday following the natural disasters, which President Joe Biden called ‘one of the largest’ storm outbreaks in American history.

Bezos tweeted about the disaster Saturday, calling it ‘tragic.’

‘We’re heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones,’ he said.

‘All of Edwardsville should know that the Amazon team is committed to supporting them and will be by their side through this crisis. We extend our fullest gratitude to all the incredible first responders who have worked so tirelessly at the site.’

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