Three University of Oklahoma meteorology students died in a car crash in Oklahoma on Friday night on a trip home from Kansas, where they had been chasing a storm, according to the State Department of Public Safety. Oklahoma.
The students were identified as Nicholas Nair, 20; Gavin Short, 19; and Drake Brooks, 22.
The three were traveling southbound on Interstate 35 in Tonkawa, Okla., near the Kansas border, when their Volkswagen Tiguan hydroplaned and became inoperative, blocking the outside lane, according to the Department of Health. public security. A truck rammed the students’ car, immobilizing it for more than five hours before their bodies were extracted by rescuers. The students were pronounced dead at the scene. The truck driver was treated at a nearby hospital and released.
The students were part of a larger group of University of Oklahoma students who had traveled to Kansas to chase storms, according to Phillip Ludwyck, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol lieutenant who helped recover vehicle students. As the other student cars returned to Norman, Okla., they saw that the GPS location of Mr. Nair, Mr. Short, and Mr. Brooks had frozen and called the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to report a possible accident, Mr. Ludwyck said. .
“It was raining very hard at that time,” he said.
Dangerous road conditions can often lead to accidents when storm chasers are heading towards or away from a storm, he added.
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“Sometimes thousands of storm chasers try to follow a storm, so traffic gets very congested and accidents happen,” Ludwyck said. But he said there was light traffic at the time of the crash.
In 2017, three storm chasers were killed in a crash outside Spur, Texas, about 70 miles east of Lubbock, while chasing a tornado. Two of the men, Kelley Williamson and Randall Yarnall, were known for their appearances on “Storm Wranglers,” a show on the Weather Channel.
Sara Raffel, a University of Oklahoma meteorology student who was friends with the three who died, said by phone that friends from their group gathered on Saturday night to comfort each other as they processed the news. .
She had formed a storm chasing party with the three they called “Metcrew Chasers”, a name that came to mind one cold, snowy night in their freshman year. They made stickers of the name emblazoned with a red, orange and green hook-shaped weather radar – symbols they would proudly display on their computers or cars.
Mara Davis, a meteorology student at the University of Oklahoma who was also friends with the students, said by phone Saturday evening that the members of the meteorology cohort were all close and had formed a “group of best friends from 20 people”. On Saturday, she texted friends to come to her apartment so they could be together.
For much of the evening, Ms Raffel and Ms Davis reminisced about their friends: how Mr Nair, described as hilarious and outgoing, sang a little song with his big voice, the one he had hoped to use as a broadcaster a day—a good choice, since he had been a poor cook, his friends joked.
How Mr Short, whose latest research project was on hurricanes, was “the smartest person” Mrs Raffel said he had met, and someone who wanted his friends to succeed.
And how Mr. Brooks, a latecomer to the group of friends, quickly won everyone over with his quick wit and love for all things weather, especially forecasting.
“Their passion for the weather and just safety for everyone and love for the whole world – they were so loved,” Ms Raffel said.
Daniel Carter, a friend of the group who is also studying meteorology at university, said via Facebook on Saturday that they are planning a candlelight vigil in the coming week.
The College of Atmospheric and Geographical Sciences at the University of Oklahoma said in a statement Saturday that his community “truly is a family” and that its members were “deeply saddened”.
“Our leaders and faculty stand ready to support each and every member of our community in the days, weeks and months ahead as we all mourn this unthinkable grief,” the college said.
On Saturday evening, the National Weather Service in Norman, Okla., released a video on Twitter showing a weather balloon with students’ names written on it.
“On this very sad day in the Normandy weather community,” the weather service said, “our evening weather balloon launch is dedicated to Nic, Drake and Gavin.”