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Crews search rubble after 6 die at Illinois Amazon facility

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EDWARDSVILLE — Search efforts at an Amazon facility in Illinois where at least six people were killed in a tornado were expected to take several days, but authorities said they did not expect to find additional survivors.

The company has not said how many people were in the building not far from St. Louis when the tornado hit at 8:35 p.m. Friday — part of a swarm of twisters across the Midwest and the South that leveled entire communities. Authorities said they didn't have a full count of employees because it was during a shift change and there were several part-time employees.

Both sides of the warehouse used to prepare orders for delivery collapsed inward and the roof caved, Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford said at a Saturday news conference.

Authorities received reports of workers being trapped and the fire unit arrived within six minutes, according to Whiteford. Police helped pull people from the rubble. While 45 employees survived, six people were killed and a seventh person was airlifted to a hospital.

Whiteford said crews would search the rubble for several days.

Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn on Sunday identified the six people who were killed. Four were from Illinois: 26-year-old Austin J. McEwen of Edwardsville, 29-year-old Clayton Lynn Cope of Alton, 46-year-old Larry E. Virden of Collinsville and 62-year-old Kevin D. Dickey of Carlyle. Two others — 28-year-old Deandre S. Morrow and 34-year-old Etheria S. Hebb — were from St. Louis.

Cope's younger sister, Rachel Cope, said her brother had worked for Amazon for over a year and served in the Navy. He was also an avid motorcycle rider, lover of video games and his dog, Draco.

“He would go out of his way for anyone,” she told The Associated Press in a written message.

Nonn said Sunday there were no pending reports of missing people related to the building collapse.

“Search efforts continue to ensure that there are no additional victims,” he said in a statement.

The damage was extensive; the structures steel support pillars were exposed after the walls and roof caved.

"These walls are made out of 11-inch thick concrete, and they're about 40 feet tall, so a lot of weight from that came down," Whiteford said.

Among those hoping for answers was Sarah Biermann, whose husband was an Amazon employee and was dropping off his delivery van Friday evening.

"I have no idea what's going on. We're just worried sick," she told KDSK-TV.

Employee Amanda Goss had just started her first week in a new job as an Amazon delivery driver when the tornado hit.

"As I look up, the corner of the building was shaking, and it comes down the garage area and then I felt the gates coming in behind me," Goss told KTVI-TV. "All I do is sit there in my van hoping it don't move."

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The Amazon facility, among three in Edwardsville, is a 1.1 million square foot "delivery station" that employs about 190 workers across several shifts, according to Amazon. The facility, which opened in July 2020, prepares orders for "last-mile delivery" to customers. Edwardsville is about 25 miles northeast of St. Louis.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement. "We're continuing to support our employees and partners in the area."

Amazon said that when a site is made aware of a tornado warning, all employees are notified and directed to move to a shelter.

But company officials declined to answer specific questions about when employees were warned.

A union representing retail employees that has pushed to organize Amazon employees blasted the company for "dangerous labor practices" for having employees work during the severe weather.

"Time and time again Amazon puts its bottom line above the lives of its employees," Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Requiring, said in a statement. "Requiring workers to work through such a major tornado warning event as this was inexcusable."

Recap: Coverage of Midwestern tornadoes

Photos, video and reporting from severe storms that hit Illinois and other states Friday night. 

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Multiple tornadoes touched down Sunday night and traveled through towns in southeast Missouri, and Illinois. Areas in multiple counties suffer…

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This is a developing story and will be updated. 

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Buildings were flattened in areas west and east of St. Louis -- from St. Charles County, Missouri to Edwardsville, Illinois -- damaging houses…

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Multiple weather systems raked across the central part of the state Friday, causing damage that includes a collapsed building in the Metro East. 

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An EF3 tornado wiped out much of an Amazon distribution facility, killing 6, as a wave of violent weather rolled through the St. Louis metropo…

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Chief Meteorologist Matt Holiner has a recap of the damage reports received so far after Friday night's severe storms.

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Chief Meteorologist Matt Holiner has a recap of the damage reports received so far after Friday night's severe storms.

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Here's the latest on last night's storms from McLean County officials and a Lee Enterprises meteorologist.

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Friends from Edwardsville, Illinois provided water, snacks, and coffee to first responders at the Edwardsville Fire Department, on Saturday, D…

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Authorities say there are six confirmed deaths at the Amazon fulfillment center near Edwardsville. A woman also died in St. Charles County.

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Rachel Crnkovich and her family were having a Christmas gathering when the monstrous tornado that made its way through parts of Coles and Moul…

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The power contained in the storm that swept through Mattoon on Friday night isn’t lost on Kylie Dawkins.

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Disaster-aid and humanitarian groups are mobilizing to help tornado victims and setting up dedicated fund for donations to support their efforts. Here's a look at some of the relief being provided and ways to donate.

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Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford describes the emergency response and recovery efforts underway after a tornado struck an Amazon wareho…

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The day after a tornado caused an Amazon facility collapse that left six people dead, Gov. J.B. Pritzker spoke about Illinoisans' willingness …

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Authorities were uncertain Saturday evening whether anyone was still missing because workers were in the midst of a shift change when it was struck. 

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At least one person is dead after severe storms and tornadoes ravaged an area along Hwy. F in St. Charles County near Defiance, Missouri, leve…

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A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, ripped across the middle of the U.S. in a stormfront that killed …

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MAYFIELD, Ky. — Rescuers combed through fields of wreckage after a tornado outbreak roared across the middle of the U.S., leaving dozens dead …

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Coles County homes, businesses damaged by Friday storm

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An EF3 tornado wiped out much of an Amazon distribution facility, killing 6, as a wave of violent weather rolled through the St. Louis metropo…

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