Amazon workers killed in tornado identified

2022-04-20 03:35:46 By : Ms. Sunny Wu

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A Navy vet who tried to warn his co-workers and a single mother with a 1-year-old son were among the six people killed when a tornado collapsed an Amazon warehouse in Illinois, officials and their grieving relatives confirmed Sunday.

Etheria S. Hebb, 34, a delivery driver from St. Louis, was identified as one of the workers killed at the Edwardsville facility when both sides of the building caved inward and the roof fell down on Friday evening.

“She was the most sweetest, kindest person ever. She was such a beautiful soul,” her sister, Tiara Hebb, told The Post. 

“She was the life of the party and always did everything for everyone. She always checked on everyone.”

Relatives said Etheria was a single mother to a 1-year-old son, Malik.

“She was a wonderful mother,” Tiara said.

Etheria’s heartbroken relatives say little Malik is having a tough time without his mother.

“They were very close. It’s kinda hard but we will get through it by the grace of God,” Etheria’s stepmother, Baby Hebb, told The Post.

Officials in Edwardsville on Sunday identified the other victims as Deandre S. Morrow, 28, of St. Louis, Mo.; Kevin D. Dickey, 62, of Carlyle, Ill.; Clayton Lynn Cope, 29, of Alton, Ill.; Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville, Ill.;  and Austin J. McEwen, 26, of Edwardsville, IIll.

Cope’s mother had previously confirmed that the maintenance worker was one of the victims.

The six-year Navy vet spoke to his mother shortly before the tornado struck, and he spoke of informing his co-workers about the incoming twister, his mother told CNN.

Cope’s cousin, 38-year-old Jacqueline Cope, remembered him as “a very special person.”

“He was trying to alert more people about the storm,” she told The Post.

She described him as a doting cousin, who would hang out and “chit-chat about life” when she would mow their grandmother’s lawn each week before she passed away.

“I would describe him as a very kindhearted man and always thought of others,” she said.

Meanwhile, Morrow was remembered for bringing “happiness and peace to everyone’s life” and being a “very loyal friend.”

“I came on here to express how much of a GREAT FRIEND he was to me for so many years ! I learned so much from him during my school years he taught me early what loyalty was,” his ex-girlfriend, Yasmine Nicole, wrote on Facebook.

Virden’s family said he was an Army veteran who had just started as an Amazon delivery driver a few months ago. 

His girlfriend of 13 years, Cherie Jones, said the final text message she received from him was about the storm, roughly 20 minutes before it hit. He told her Amazon wouldn’t let him go home until the storm passed.

“I got text messages from him. He always tells me when he is filling up the Amazon truck when he is getting ready to go back … I was like, ‘OK, I love you.’ He’s like, ‘Well Amazon won’t let me leave until after the storm blows over,’” she told The Post.

“We heard the tornado didn’t touch down until 8:39 so he had 20 minutes to get home,” she said.

She said she doesn’t “really” blame Amazon for his death, “But it’s that what-if situation:  What if they would have let him leave? He could have made it home.”

She said Virden considered himself lucky having survived a missile that blew up just 200 yards from him while he was serving in Iraq. “When he was over there, he made his peace with the maker so he was prepared to die. But we didn’t want him to die now,” she said, her voice rising.

Jones said the couple had three children together between the ages of 9 and 12. Virden had a grandchild and other children as well.

“My oldest boy, he thinks that Daddy is going to come home, but now we have to tell him that Daddy’s not coming home. When my daughter came into the house, she was like, ‘Where’s Daddy? Where’s Daddy?’ And she started bawling because she knew something was wrong.”

“The youngest doesn’t understand it either. We are really going to have to sit down with them.”

His daughter Justice said she had to break the news of his death to his young granddaughter.

“I had to tell my 4-year-old daughter that her best friend wasn’t coming home,” she told Fox 2 Now. 

She paid tribute to her father Saturday by sharing a photo of what appears to be him in a delivery truck.

“I will always love you daddy till we meet again,” she wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile, relatives of McEwen — the youngest Amazon victim — agonized over his final moments in the wreckage.

“I cant imagine how you must’ve felt I can’t get that out of my head.. I’m so sorry it had to be you,” his cousin Devyn McGee shared on Facebook.

His grandfather, 80-year-old Billy McCewen, told The Post his grandson was a hard worker and “a good gentleman.”

“It’s pretty rough to have this all come up on you at once,” he said. “We are all hurting real bad.”

“He was just a good, hardworking kid. He was working and he went inside and about that time a darn tornado hit. He was delivering stuff and when he got in there, it hit. Everyone should have known the time it was supposed to hit.”

He added, “I don’t blame nobody, it just happens.”

Fire Chief James Whiteford said rescuers had been able to save 45 employees from the facility.

He said rescue crews would continue to search the rubble for several days for survivors, though they were not optimistic about finding anyone else alive.

“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.

Amazon said it employs about 190 workers at the facility, but the company was unable to determine how many workers were in the facility since the tornado struck during a shift change and drivers come and go.

“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.”