Larry Virden was killed when the roof at a giant Amazon warehouse in Illinois collapsed on Friday night. He texted his girlfriend before the devastating tornado struck, explaining that the firm had ordered him to stay inside until the storm passed.
According to Cherie Jones, his girlfriend of 13 years, the text was sent at 8:23 p.m., 16 minutes before the tornado hit at 8:39 p.m. The pair lived in Collinsville, about 13 minutes away from the warehouse.
“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 said.
“I messaged him and that was the last text message I got from him,” she added. “I told him where we live, it was only lightning at the time. After that, I got nothing from him.”
Virden, 46, had only been with Amazon for five months. He was a US Army veteran who served in Iraq.
Jones said that Virden liked working at the company because he got to work outside.
Virden was the father of four children, including one adopted child. He and Jones lived together for 13 years and had three children together, ranging from nine to twelve.
Jones also expressed that the abrupt demise of their father perplexed the children.
“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.”
On Sunday, the corporation said it would donate $1 million to the Edwardsville Community Foundation to aid in the recovery process. Amazon has also stated that it is reaching out to the victims’ relatives to see how they can help and provide assistance to other employees.
Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement: “We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, IL. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the tornado. We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on the scene. We’re continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in the area.”
According to Amazon, the 1.1 million-square-foot warehouse debuted in July 2020 and employed roughly 190 people. Amazon’s delivery service partners and Amazon Flex drivers prepared orders on-site for last-mile delivery to customers.
According to the corporation, staff and drivers are allowed to use their cellphones while on the job, which can offer emergency weather notifications and allow employees to contact family members, NY Post reported.