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Dad's last text 16 minutes before death in Amazon warehouse

The long-term girlfriend of a man who tragically died when a tornado tore through an Amazon Warehouse revealed he texted her just 16 minutes before he was killed, saying the company told him not to drive home.

Father-of-four Larry Virden was killed on Friday night when the roof came down at a massive Amazon facility in the US state of Illinois.

His partner of 13 years, Cherie Jones, told The Post he had texted her on Sunday at 8:23 pm, 16 minutes before the tornado reportedly hit the warehouse at 8:39 pm.

Two images of Larry Virden: left: wearing sunglasses taking a selfie: right: wearing seeing glasses taking a selfie.
Larry Virden was tragically killed when a tornado tore through the Illinois Amazon warehouse on Thursday. Source: Fox2Now

'Amazon won't let me leave': Larry Virden

"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," she said. "I was like ‘ OK, I love you.’ He’s like, ‘well Amazon won’t let me leave until after the storm blows over.'"

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

“I messaged him and that was the last text message I got from him,” she said. “I told him where we live, it was only lightning at the time. After that, I got nothing from him.”

LEFT: A text message exchange between Cherie Jones and Larry Virden. RIGHT: Cherie Jones wearing glasses blonde hair pulled back crying.
Cherie Jones revealed the devasting text messages Mr Virden sent her before he was tragically killed. Source: Fox2Now

The 46-year-old had worked for Amazon for five months, with Ms Jones saying he enjoyed his work because he got to be outside.

Children grieving for their father

Mr Virden is a father of four, three of whom he shares with Ms Jones, aged between nine and 12.

The father, who was a US Army veteran and had served in Iraq, had reportedly "made peace" with dying while he was serving, but Ms Jones said the family wasn't ready to say goodbye.

“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.”

A family shot of Mr Virden and  Ms Jones sitting down with their children.
Mr Virden and Ms Jones with their family. Source: Fox2Now

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

Employees allowed phones 'for emergencies'

Six warehouse workers died when the tornado destroyed the warehouse on December 9.

“We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, [Illinois.]" Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement Sunday.

"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 scene.

Two aerial photos of the Amazon warehouse in Illinois: one intact the other half destroyed.
The Amazon warehouse before and after the tornado tore through. Source: Maxar via AP

"We’re continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in the area.”

The company — which had previously banned employees from having their mobile phones with them — said that employees and drivers are permitted to have their phones while working, which can provide emergency weather alerts and allow employees to contact family members.

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