Community remembers three Oklahoma meteorology students killed in car crash after storm

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Tributes from grieving family and friends poured in Saturday for three University of Oklahoma meteorology students who died in a storm in Kansas over the weekend.

A tight-knit community of weather lovers and storm chasers are grieving after the three students died in a car crash Friday night while returning to Norman, Oklahoma from chasing storms in Kansas .

The lost student, Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas; Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Ill.; and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, inspired many to express their grief, but also to remember why they loved them.

Leigh O’Neil, a geographic information science student at OU, said the three students were the “kindest, smartest people” she had ever met. O’Neil said a selfie of the three attackers for the camera they sent to their friends on Friday is a perfect representation of their humor.

“You couldn’t be with them without making fun of you,” she said. “They would truly do anything to help others, even before their own well-being. … We already miss them dearly. Their loss is incredibly painful for all of us.”

A fatal collision occurred during a rainstorm in northern Oklahoma

Nair, Short and Brooks were traveling southbound on a wet highway when their SUV hydroplaned, left the pavement on the right, then re-entered the highway and came to a stop. The 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan was hit by a tractor-trailer traveling in the same direction, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Gavin Short, orange shirt, and Nicholas Nair, to the left of Short, are pictured with their friends. Short and Nair died in a fatal car accident while returning home from a storm in Kansas.

All three men were pronounced dead at the scene about 85 miles north of Oklahoma City. Tonkawa Fire Department officials and paramedics worked nearly five and a half hours to remove them from the wreckage. The driver of the semi-trailer was taken to a hospital in Blackwell but has since been released.

The crash happened around 11:23 p.m. Friday night, just three hours after the students witnessed a small tornado north of Herrington, Kansas, according to their Twitter accounts.

Evan Short, 17, Gavin Short’s younger brother, said Gavin “lived more in his 1.5 years at OU than in his first 18 years of life.”

“I can find comfort in the thought that he can now live amongst the clouds he loved so much,” Evan Short said.

The OU College of Atmospheric and Geographical Sciences released a statement saying that as the final weeks approached, guidance was available “as we all mourn this unthinkable grief”.

“Our Atmospheric and Geographical Sciences community is very close-knit, and our School of Meteorology is one big family. Now, more than ever, we need to come together in kindness and sincere support for one another. Please join us in offering thoughts and prayers for those most affected and ensuring their privacy,” the statement said.

Gavin Short, 19, is pictured holding a Storm Chaser sign given to him at Christmas in December 2021.

Gavin Short, 19, is pictured holding a Storm Chaser sign given to him at Christmas in December 2021.

Weather community mourns death of OU students on social media

Members of the weather and weather community took to Twitter on Saturday to express their condolences over the news.

Chris Dixon, another OU meteorology student, was among a separate group of students chasing the storm on Friday. He saw his first tornado over Andover, Kansas, but woke up Saturday to find three peers had died.

“Words cannot describe this roller coaster of emotions going from one of the highest moments of my life to one of the most serious ones closest to home,” Dixon wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Reed Timmer, a well-known storm chaser and former OU meteorologist called the student friends and said they are close to his heart.

“My thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends,” Timmer said.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Three OU meteorology students die in car crash after storm

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