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Amazon sued by family of delivery driver killed inside collapsed warehouse

Austin McEwen sheltered from a tornado with five others, who also died when the roof fell.

Laura Hautala
Laura Hautala
Laura Hautala Former Senior Writer
Laura wrote about e-commerce and Amazon, and she occasionally covered cool science topics. Previously, she broke down cybersecurity and privacy issues for CNET readers. Laura is based in Tacoma, Washington, and was into sourdough before the pandemic.
Expertise E-commerce, Amazon, earned wage access, online marketplaces, direct to consumer, unions, labor and employment, supply chain, cybersecurity, privacy, stalkerware, hacking. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie Award for a single article in consumer technology
Laura Hautala
The exterior of the collapsed warehouse from a distance with construction equipment in front of the building.

Austin McEwen's family claims Amazon was negligent in keeping people at work despite extreme weather warnings.

Getty Images

The family of a delivery driver is suing Amazon for wrongful death. The man, Austin McEwen, died in an Illinois warehouse struck by a tornado in December. The lawsuit claims the e-commerce giant was negligent, in part because the company told people to keep working despite warnings of extreme weather.

The lawsuit also makes claims of negligence against contractors involved in building the Edwardsville, Illinois, warehouse. McEwen was one of six people who died in the building when the roof collapsed in the tornado. The family of another victim, Deandre Morrow, has also retained an attorney. 

McEwen's mother, Alice McEwen, spoke at a news conference Monday. "Sadly, it appears that Amazon placed profits first during this holiday season instead of the safety of our son and the other five," she said.

Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement that the lawsuit has key facts wrong about weather warnings and the condition of the warehouse. She added that the building was built less than four years ago in accordance with all building code requirements. She also defended the company's decisions based on weather warnings.

"Severe weather watches are common in this part of the country and, while precautions are taken, are not cause for most businesses to close down," she said. "We believe our team did the right thing as soon as a warning was issued."