A woman among four weather experts chasing a storm in windswept southwestern Minnesota has died in a highway crash, the driver of the car said Thursday from his hospital bed.
The wreckage occurred late Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 90 just east of Worthington as spring storms swept through southern Minnesota, according to the state patrol.
“We were chasing storms,” said Chilean meteorologist Diego Campos, when his car hit a downed power line. “The storm was really violent and we were trying to get out of there.”
Campos, 37, said while the car was stopped on I-90 eastbound, a tractor-trailer hit his vehicle from behind.
Martha L. Llanos Rodriguez, 30, of Mexico City, did not survive the crash, the patrol said. Campos said Rodriguez was sitting behind him, and “that’s where the truck hit us, in the left rear.”
“The whole accident is kind of stuck in my mind,” said Campos, who added that he had numerous bruises and suffered chest pain as he recovered at Sanford Medical Center. Worthington.
Bradford S. Barrett, 42, of Annapolis, Md., was hospitalized in Worthington with life-threatening injuries, according to the patrol. Barrett’s experience includes a position with the Air Force’s Office of Scientific Research after a long stint as an instructor in the U.S. Naval Academy’s Department of Oceanography, specializing in many areas of climate and weather around the world.
Aldo Alberto Viscarra-Avilez, 33, also from Chile, was recovering in the same hospital room as Campos, who said his fellow Chilean meteorologist had broken bones.
Campos said he, Viscarra-Avilez and Barrett met in Dallas and then picked up Rodriguez at the Omaha airport. He said they all got to know each other through lectures and professional courses.
Campos, who is based in Santiago, the Chilean capital, said it was the second time he had raced after a storm and that Viscarra-Avilez and Barrett “have a lot of experience” behind him.
“Martha,” Campos said, pausing for a moment, “it was her first time.”
In addition to preparing weather forecasts for the Mexico City metropolitan area, Rodriguez also helped create and operate the severe weather early warning system for the 21 million people who live in or near Mexico City.
In a tweet Wednesday afternoonshortly after arriving in Omaha, she wrote: “We continue our journey north in search of formation. Now in Iowa, heading to Minnesota.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help survivors and others with crash-related expenses. “Colleagues are hosting this GoFundMe to help our four colleagues and their families during this difficult time,” the fundraiser organizer explained. “Funds from here will be used to cover medical bills and costs associated with the accident.”
John Wetter said he and Barrett have crossed paths over the years as veterans of storm chasing, and he believes Barrett and the others “did the right thing, stopping with a power line on the freeway. Who expects to see that? Obviously, they were put in an impossible situation.”
Wetter, 43, who has lived in Maple Grove and chased storms for about 25 years, understands that this passion for getting close to the most volatile weather comes with risks, but there are precautions that can minimize becoming a victim. .
“You need to know enough about the storm to know what it’s doing and stay as safe as possible,” said Wetter, who has lived in many parts of Minnesota and said the state’s changing seasons made it particularly attractive to storm chasers.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen people perish doing this as their job or hobby,” Wetter said. “When your adrenaline kicks in, you forget certain things…like not just stopping the car and jumping up and taking a picture. You’re still in a lane of traffic.”
Philip Schumacher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, SD, said on Thursday that winds from a group of thunderstorms were blowing more than 60 miles per hour in the Worthington area around the time power lines went down. fell on the highway.
Schumacher said the area was under a severe thunderstorm warning, which means the agency is telling people “to seek shelter in an interior room on the ground. Get into a sturdy building if you can.”
“Being in a vehicle comes with risks” in such rough weather, he said. “A vehicle is a less safe place,” he said. “You move, and things can fly towards you.”
Schumacher, a 29-year weather service veteran, said, “I don’t chase storms. … I know people who do. When you’re in this profession, you hear about it.”
The semi-driver who hit the storm chasing car, Jaskaran Singh, 26, of Ottawa, Ont., was not injured in the accident, the patrol said.
Another car hit the cables at the scene of the accident but avoided colliding with any vehicles. Patrol said the driver, Tyler S. Gilbery, 23, of Tea, SD, suffered minor injuries and was also hospitalized in Worthington.