House committee accuses Amazon of obstructing its investigation of downstate warehouse collapse

Six people, including Austin McEwen, died when part of an Edwardsville warehouse collapsed during a tornado.

SHARE House committee accuses Amazon of obstructing its investigation of downstate warehouse collapse
The heavily damaged downstate Amazon warehouse in the aftermath of a Dec. 10, 2021, tornado. A congressional committee says Amazon has failed to comply with a request for documents as part of an investigation into the tragedy.

The heavily damaged downstate Amazon warehouse in the aftermath of a Dec. 10, 2021, tornado. A congressional committee says Amazon has failed to comply with a request for documents as part of an investigation into the tragedy.

Jeff Roberson/AP file

A congressional committee investigating the partial collapse of a downstate Amazon warehouse during a tornado last year, killing six, has accused the online retail giant of “obstructing” its investigation.

“Nearly seven weeks have passed since the April 2022 deadline, yet Amazon still has not produced any of the key categories of documents identified by committee staff, let alone the full set of materials the committee requested in March,” wrote members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform in a June 1 letter to Amazon President and CEO Andy Jassy.

“For example, Amazon has failed to produce any internal communications related to the December 2021 tornado that affected Amazon’s Edwardsville facility.”

Among those killed in the Dec. 10 tragedy was 26-year-old Austin McEwen, whose family is suing Amazon.

“One only needs a small amount of common sense to recognize that whatever is in those internal memorandums, whatever is in those internal communications that Amazon refuses to turn over, certainly it’s not exonerating them,” Jack Casciato, the McEwen family attorney, told reporters Friday. “There is certainly something in there that tells the story of what happened that night and why, perhaps, [the loss of] six lives could have been prevented.”

The McEwen family suit, filed in January, claims Amazon “carelessly required individuals ... to continue working up until the moments before the tornado struck.” It also said Amazon “improperly directed” McEwen and others to seek shelter in a bathroom, which they “knew or should have known” wasn’t a safe place.

Casciato, a partner at Clifford Law Offices downtown, has also claimed that the building’s construction was a contributing factor in the deaths of McEwen and the others.

In its letter to Amazon’s Jassy, the congressional committee, which includes U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said they have agreed to extend the deadline to produce the documents.

“Amazon’s failure to provide key documents has obstructed the committee’s investigation. As an additional accommodation, the committee will grant an extension until June 8, 2022, for Amazon to complete its document production. If Amazon fails to do so, the committee will have no choice but to consider alternative measures to obtain full compliance,” the letter states.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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