Three University of Oklahoma meteorology students died in a car crash in Oklahoma on Friday night on a return trip from Kansas, where they had been storm chasing, according to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.
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 disabled, blocking the outside lane, according to the department of public safety. A truck struck the students’ car, pinning it for over five hours before their bodies were extricated by emergency responders. 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 the storms, according to Phillip Ludwyck, a lieutenant with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol who helped recover the students from the vehicle. As the other carloads of students made their way back to Norman, Okla., they saw that Mr. Nair, Mr. Short, and Mr. Brooks’s GPS location had frozen and called the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to report a possible accident, said Mr. Ludwyck.
“It was raining very heavy at the time,” Mr. Ludwyck said.
Hazardous road conditions can often lead to accidents when storm chasers are heading to or away from a storm, he added.
“Sometimes you may have thousands of storm chasers trying to follow one storm so that traffic just gets very congested, so accidents happen,” Mr. Ludwyck said. But he said there had been little traffic at the time of the accident.
In 2017, three storm chasers were killed in a crash outside of Spur, Texas, about 70 miles east of Lubbock, while pursuing 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.