Kansas: Storm chasers killed in crash after racing to catch tornado
Tributes have been paid to ‘much loved’ University of Oklahoma meteorology students Nicholas Nair, 20, Gavin Short, 19, and Drake Brooks, 22.
Their Volkswagen Tiguan hydroplaned and became disabled as they drove southbound on Interstate 35 in Tonkawa in torrential rain.
The vehicle was struck by a truck, with emergency responders struggling for five hours to remove their bodies from the wreckage. The truck driver was treated in hospital and released.
Hours before their deaths, Nicholas and Gavin had posted footage from Herington, roughly 150 miles north of a tornado passing over the motorway.
Andover fire chief Chad Russell said homes were ‘completely blown away’ in some neighbourhoods, while ‘very bad damage’ was seen in others.
Friends have remembered aspiring broadcaster Nicholas as ‘hilarious and outgoing’ and a ‘lousy cook’, New York Times reports.
Gavin had launched a research project about hurricanes and was ‘the most intelligent person’ who always wanted his friends to do well, fellow meteorology student Sara Raffel said.
Meanwhile, Drake was known for his quick wit and love for all things meteorology, especially forecasting.
Friends will gather to remember the three men at a candlelit vigil this week.
A number of other students had travelled to chase the storm, although there wasn’t much traffic on the road when the tragedy struck.
‘Sometimes you may have thousands of storm chasers trying to follow one storm so that traffic just gets very congested, so accidents happen’, Phillip Ludwyck, a lieutenant with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said.
The University of Oklahoma’s College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences released a statement confirming the loss.
‘Our community in Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences is close-knit, and our School of Meteorology is very much a family’, it said.
‘Now, more than ever, we must come together in kindness and heartfelt support for one another.
‘Please join us in offering thoughts and prayers for those most impacted, and providing them with privacy.’
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