Death toll rises to 6 in Amazon warehouse collapse; search ongoing, Edwardsville Fire Department says
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. (KMOV.com) – At least six people died after part of the Amazon warehouse collapsed in Edwardsville when storms rolled through Friday night, Edwardsville Fire Department announced Saturday.
Edwardsville Fire Department announced the death toll had risen from two to six Saturday afternoon in a press conference with the media. Forty-five people made it out safely from the warehouse, Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford said Saturday.
Whiteford said that a confirmed EF-3 tornado caused the damage to the Amazon facility in Edwardsville. Edwardsville Mayor Art Risavy and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker also spoke during the conference.
“Amidst these conditions, the Edwardsville community experienced great tragedy,” Pritzker said during the conference. “The structural collapse of an amazon warehouse with workers inside.”
Pritzker commended the Edwardsville Fire Department, along with all the other first responders who reacted to the warehouse collapse Friday night.
Edwardsville Police Chief Michael Fillback told News 4 it is not known how many people were inside the building when it collapsed around 8:30 p.m. He also said it’s not known exactly how many people are still inside. There is a search and rescue operation underway at the facility. Early Saturday morning, Edwardsville police confirmed two people inside the facility died. The National Weather Service later said a storm survey indicates an EF-3 tornado hit; a similar damage assessment was made for a tornado in St. Charles County.
News 4′s Jenna Rae was on the scene shortly before 9:30 p.m. Friday and saw dozens of first responders arriving to the area. The Madison County Mass Casualty Team has been seen on site. More than a dozen agencies were on the scene.
About three hours after the collapse at 3077 Gateway Commerce Center Drive South, two Madison County Transit buses were seen taking Amazon workers off of the property, according to Rae. She also reported that a life flight helicopter was landing in the area.
Aisha White was on the phone with a family member who was inside the building at the time of the collapse.
“He was on the phone with me while it was happening,” she recalled. “The tornado was hitting the back of the building, the trucks were coming in, I told him to jump out the truck and duck. We watched the building go up, stuff hitting the cars, I told him I was on my way.”
When she first arrived at the site, White said she was not able to find her family member. She said from what she heard the people inside of the warehouse remained calm and worked to figure out how to get out of the warehouse.
An employee who was heading to the building in the rain said he first thought the power was out when he arrived for his shift. “I didn’t realize the back of the building was gone,” he recalled.
He described the scene after the incident and detailed how there were smashed cars and downed power lines.
Friday night, about 30 Amazon workers were bussed to the Pontoon Beach Police Department after being rescued from the collapsed building. Once there, Chief Fillback said officers asked for their identity and for information on who else was inside the building at the time.
About an hour after News 4 arrived on the scene of the collapse, Gov. Pritzker tweeted that he was aware of the situation unfolding in Edwardsville. He wrote, “My prayers are with the people of Edwardsville tonight, and I’ve reached out to the mayor to provide any needed state resources.” The governor later activated the State Emergency Operations Center following the night of severe weather.
News 4 reached out to Amazon regarding the situation. Friday night, Amazon Spokesperson Richard Rocha responded, “The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now. We’re assessing the situation and will share additional information when it’s available.”
The company sent another statement early Saturday morning after fatalities were confirmed:
“Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted. This is a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners.”
The Edwardsville Police Department confirmed there was a widespread power outage with downed lines and that Ameren was working to restore power.
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