Meteorology students at the University of Oklahoma are mourning three of their own who were killed in a highway accident while returning from a storm-chasing trip. The three were identified as Nicholas Nair, 20; Gavin Short, 19; and Drake Brooks, 22, reports the Oklahoman. The men were on their way home from a trip to Kansas when their vehicle hydroplaned on Interstate 35, left the roadway, then returned to the highway and stalled, says the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. A tractor-trailer struck their Volkswagen Tiguan, and all three were pronounced dead at the scene, per KOCO. The truck driver was not seriously injured. The accident happened about 11:30pm Friday in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, near the Kansas border.
“It was raining very heavy at the time,” says a lieutenant with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The three were part of a larger group of university students who had gone to Kansas to track storms, reports the New York Times. In fact, Nair and Short posted videos—here and here—of a tornado they spotted just hours before their deaths. Students in other vehicles on the trip became worried when they noticed the men's vehicle had not moved from GPS coordinates and began calling police and hospitals for news of a possible accident, reports CNN.
“Their passion for weather and just the safety for everybody and love for the whole world—they were just loved so much,” fellow student Sara Raffel, who had formed a storm-chasing group called Metcrew Chasers with the trio, tells the Times. The university's College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences said in a statement it was "deeply saddened" by the deaths, adding that its meteorology community is "very much a family." (Read more storm chasers stories.)