An Amazon Worker Who Died in the Warehouse Had Told His Girlfriend He Wasn’t Allowed to Leave

Larry Virden was one of the workers who was killed in Illinois’ Amazon warehouse collapse during a night of devastating tornadoes, but new information says it didn’t have to be that way. Cherie Jones, Virden’s girlfriend of 15 years, told the Post that Virden had texted her before the collapse, saying he’d planned on coming home ahead of the storms but had been told he couldn’t leave.

“I got text messages from him,” she told the New York Post. “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.'”

The text was sent about 16 minutes before the tornado that destroyed the warehouse touched down. Jones and Virden live about a 13 minute drive away. “I messaged him and that was the last text message I got from him,” she told the Post. “I told him where we live, it was only lightning at the time. After that, I got nothing from him.”

Virden was one of the six workers who died in the warehouse collapse. He was the father of four, including adopted children. He and Jones had three kids together. He was a veteran who had served in Iraq, and Jones told the Post that he had enjoyed his job at Amazon. The other workers who died in the collapse are 28-year-old Deandre Morrow, 62-year-old Kevin Dickey, 29-year-old Clarton Lynn Cope, 34-year-old Etheria Hebb and 26-year-old Austin McEwan.

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Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into what happened in Edwardsville, Illinois, and if better management could have saved lives.

It’s the latest troubling story for Amazon, which has been fielding a growing number of stories about mistreatment of its workers. Numerous workers are speaking up about controversial practices like, in some cases, banning cellphones on warehouse floors — cellphones that could have vital updates about weather and safety. Amazon has come under fire over the last few months for making employees work in dangerous weather conditions like the Pacific Northwest heatwaves and Ida’s flooding in New York City.

“We can’t keep letting Amazon get Away with the way they are treating employees,” tweeted Darryl Richardson, one of the organizers of an effort to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. “Something got to change.”

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