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Israel Espana, killed when tornado strikes Baltimore Amazon facility, remembered as loyal friend and father

Israel Espana, killed when tornado strikes Baltimore Amazon facility, remembered as loyal friend and father
Israel Espana, center, surrounded by his wife and children, was one of two men killed after a tornado hit the Amazon fulfillment center in Southeast Baltimore. (Handout photo)

On Sunday evening, friends of Israel Espana gathered in Bristow, Va., mourning his loss. The 37-year-old was one of two men killed over the weekend after a tornado hit the Amazon fulfillment center on Broening Highway in Southeast Baltimore, collapsing a 50-foot wall.

“We are still in shock,” said Yvonne Aguirre, a friend of Espana’s, reached at his home in Bristow in Prince William County, about 30 miles outside Washington. “We can’t understand why this happened, why this happened to him. He was so young. ... When we received the call we were like, it was a bad dream.”

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According to the National Weather Service, the tornado touched down at 9:42 p.m. Friday. It first blew over a tractor trailer on Interstate 95 before moving east and blasting through garage doors at a van-rental facility.

Officials said the storm became most severe as it reached the Amazon building, pulling off part of the roof and iron rafters. The storm also moved a dozen truck trailers and picked up debris that smashed car windows.

The deaths were the first tornado-related fatalities in Maryland since 2002.

About 4,000 miles away from his hometown of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Espana drove trucks as a contractor for Amazon. Long hours at work helped pay for a new house in Bristow, where Espana, his wife and three children moved last year.

“They were starting like a new lovely family in this new house,” said Aguirre, who’d known Espana in Bolivia, and then met him again by coincidence in Virginia. He was a great friend, and she had relied on his and his wife’s support while going through her own divorce.

Though Espana worked hard, Aguirre said, he managed to find time to coach his youngest child’s soccer team, and to drive all his kids to their practices and games. He loved the sport, and played at least once or twice a week. Other hobbies included karaoke and grilling in the churrasco style of his homeland.

In addition to his wife and three children, Espana is survived by a brother in Maryland, who Aguirre said is devastated by his death.

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