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Local family loses father to Edwardsville tornado

  • Kevin Dickey was one of six Amazon employees who died when the roof of the warehouse collapsed.

    Kevin Dickey was one of six Amazon employees who died when the roof of the warehouse collapsed.
    Courtesy of Kristen Anastasi

  • Kristen Anastasi, left, with her dad, Kevin Dickey.

    Kristen Anastasi, left, with her dad, Kevin Dickey.
    Courtesy of Kristen Anastasi

  • Kevin Dickey with his granddaughter, Josie Anastasi, after a Johnston City softball game.

    Kevin Dickey with his granddaughter, Josie Anastasi, after a Johnston City softball game.
    Courtesy of Kristen Anastasi

  • Workers attempt to clear debris as part of a search and rescue operation on Saturday, Dec. 11.

    Workers attempt to clear debris as part of a search and rescue operation on Saturday, Dec. 11.
    Brian Munoz/University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis Public Radio

 
By Holly Kee
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 12/18/2021 1:00 PM

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- For Kristen Anastasi and her family, Dec. 10 will be the night their lives changed forever.

Anastasi's father, 62-year-old Kevin D. Dickey, was one of six victims of a deadly tornado that ripped through the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville. He was currently living in Carlyle, but when Anastasi was growing up the family lived in Sesser.

The National Weather Service believes the facility was hit by an EF-3 tornado, which has top winds of 150 miles per hour. Edwardsville Police Chief Michael Fillback told KSDK in St. Louis said walls on both sides of the warehouse collapsed inward and the roof fell down. The concrete walls were 40 feet tall and about the length of a football field.

Anastasi, who lives in Johnston City, said her dad's final moments were exactly what she would expect from him, as he went the extra mile to help others.

"We had the opportunity to speak with a co-worker of my dad's this morning who was with him in those final moments," Anastasi said on Sunday.

"He assured us that our dad was doing what he did best, helping people. He was trying to get everyone to safety and making sure his drivers were OK. This is exactly what we would expect of him."

Dickey's family released a statement on Saturday:

"We are devastated at the toll this natural disaster has taken on our community and the entire Midwest. Our hearts are with the other families who have also lost loved ones. We want to thank the first responders for their efforts as well as the other heroes who were on the scene to help others get to safety.

"Dad talked often about his co-workers and their daily stories; he had a great bond with many. Dad was a kind man who loved spending time with his family. He stole the show and the hearts of his grandchildren anytime he was around. He will be truly missed, we have lost a very special person."

Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chairman of Amazon, released a statement via Twitter on Dec. 11.

"The news from Edwardsville is tragic," it said. "We're heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones.

"All of Edwardsville should know that the Amazon team is committed to supporting them and will be by their side through this crisis. We extend our fullest gratitude to all the incredible first responders who have worked so tirelessly at the site."

Dickey was the oldest of the six victims. According to the Madison County Coroner, the other five victims at the Amazon facility are:

• Deandre S. Morrow, 28, of St. Louis, Missouri

• Clayton Lynn Cope, 29, of Alton, Illinois

• Etheria S. Hebb, 34, of St. Louis, Missouri

• Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville, Illinois

• Austin J. McEwen, 26, of Edwardsville, Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was in Edwardsville on Monday and was joined by two Amazon spokespeople at a news conference in Pontoon Beach after the visit.

"We are ensuring there is a full understanding of what happened to these individuals in their final moments," said Pritzker.

During the news conference on Monday, the Amazon spokespeople said the warehouse was built consistent with proper codes, and the company is working to investigate what happened in the moments leading up to the twister hitting the facility.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also conducting an investigation into the collapse of the warehouse.

Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation for counties across central and southern Illinois that were impacted by recent storms and tornadoes.

During the news conference, he said the investigation will continue.

"While we cannot prevent natural disasters, we can strive to prevent future tragedies and ensure all Illinoisans make it home safe at the end of their shift," Pritzker said.

For Anastasi, life will now be about learning to live without the presence of her dad.

"Our loss is immense and our coming days will highlight exactly what we've always known," she said. "Our dad was extraordinary. His work ethic was unmatched only by his love for his family."