Society

Three Storm Chasers Killed Going After A Tornado

| by Michael Doherty

Three storm chasers were killed in a car accident while pursuing a tornado in Texas.

Storm chasers Kelley Gene Williamson, 57, and Randall Delane Yarnall, 55, were chasing a tornado outside of Spur, Texas, when their car collided with that of Corbin Lee Jaeger, 25, who was also following the storm, CNN reports.

It's unclear if Jaeger was with Yarnall and Williamson, or if he was simply chasing the same tornado, but all three men died in the crash, which happened after Williamson's car reportedly ran through a stop sign, colliding with Jaeger's Jeep.

Williamson was not wearing his seatbelt, police said, and he was ejected from the vehicle during the crash. Authorities did not say whether the storm played a role in causing the crash.

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The National Weather Service had advised residents of Crosby County to seek immediate shelter from the storm, The Washington Post reports.

"We would encourage anyone driving down these remote roads to slow down and pay attention to traffic signs especially in inclement weather. It can become dangerous for all involved," said Sgt. John Gonzalez of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Williamson and Yarnall worked as contractors for the Weather Channel, where they worked on the show "Storm Wranglers."

"This afternoon we learned that three people died in a car accident in Texas, including two contractors for the Weather Channel, Kelley Williamson and Randy Yarnall," said the Weather Channel in a statement. "Kelley and Randy were beloved members of the weather community. We are saddened by this loss and our deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of all involved."

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"Tragedy has struck our community once again," tweeted storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski.

Williamson had previously spoken with meteorologist Kevin Lighty about the potential dangers of following storms.

"People ask what we do, well, we track weather, tornadoes for the Weather Channel you know," Williamson said. "About 50-50. Some people says you’re crazy and the other half says, 'I want to go with ya.'"

The veteran storm chaser had mentioned the danger that those following storms could pose to each other.

"The biggest danger out there is the other chasers and the grandma that’s trying to get her kids," he said. "You know, you've got to watch out for everybody out there, and then the storms come secondary."

Billy Wade, who knew all three of the men killed in the accident, said that he had talked to Yarnall about 10 days earlier.

"We had plans for him to visit so I could teach him some photography skills," said Wade. He said Jaeger was a monsoon chaser "but would also come down to the plains to chase storms."

Williamson was going to be a groomsman at Wade's wedding. Wade said of his friend that he would "still be at my wedding in spirit."

Cary Meltzer, who also knew Yarnall and Williamson, said the accident was a tragic loss for the storm-chasing community.

"Such a nice guy, would give you the shirt off his back," Meltzer said, talking about Yarnall.

"People are going to feel this one," he added. "They were very well-respected and very well-liked."

Sources: The Washington Post, CNN / Photo credit: NOAA Photo Library/Flickr

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