Collapsed Amazon warehouse had construction defects, says family of slain worker

The Amazon warehouse that collapsed with workers inside during a tornado outbreak in December may have committed a “serious violation” of the building code that made the structure extremely vulnerable, according to a lawyer representing the family of a worker who died there.

A tornado outbreak tore through the Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville, Illinois on Dec. 10, razing parts of the building to the ground and killing six people. Support columns in parts of the warehouse that collapsed may not have been properly secured to the ground, according to a newly unearthed report filed by a structural engineer who was asked by local officials to assess post-tornado damage.

“I was concerned to find that none of the base’s columns appeared to be ripped or torn,” the report said. The report describes the apparent ease with which columns are lifted from the floor as comparable to “a pin coming out of a hole.”

The report was obtained at the request of a lawyer representing the family of Austin McEwen, a 26-year-old delivery boy who died while crawling into a warehouse toilet for shelter with other workers. It is expected to be introduced as part of a wrongful death trial by McEwen’s family.

In particular, the document suggests that the warehouse building was constructed in violation of local and international building codes. The columns supporting the building should have been firmly anchored to the floor, but the engineer found no evidence of anchoring in a number of columns.

“I could not find a weld or bolt connection at the base of a column, just a bead of what appeared to be some sort of sealant around the column at the finished floor line,” the report reads. “An examination of several of the empty bays that once housed columns also revealed no indication of positive attachment of the columns at or below the finished floor level.”

The columns appeared to be well anchored to other parts of the warehouse, which remained standing, McEwen lawyer Jack Casciato said on a statement. press bell Today. “Someone just didn’t finish the job,” Casciato said during the phone call.

The building was built before Amazon leased the facility, but the family believes Amazon should have seen its shortcomings. Their lawsuit also notes that the building had no basement shelter where workers could potentially have taken cover.

Amazon is also under scrutiny for encouraging its employees to continue working, even though forecasts warned of tornadoes in the area at least a day in advance. Amazon did not immediately respond to a press request from The edge† Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel told local news channel KSDK that “Investigators continue to conduct an extensive forensic examination of the building and its rubble – so it is premature and misleading to suggest that there were structural problems. The original developer completed construction on this building in 2018 in accordance with all applicable building codes as documented by the city and the original owner. The building was re-inspected and passed city inspections in 2020 when Amazon rented the building.”

The engineer ends the report with a caveat, saying concerns about the building’s design require more analysis by other professionals “before conclusions can be drawn.”

According to the McEwen family’s attorney, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has opened an investigation into what happened there that day and is reviewing the report.


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