A veteran storm chase is lucky to be alive after surveying the tornado wreckage of northeast Texas on Dec. 26 -- but not for the reason you might think (video below).
Jeff Piotrowski was reportedly trying to help a pedestrian who seemed injured following the devastating storm in Texas when he was attacked with a knife.
Piotrowski has been chronicling powerful tornadoes and the damage they cause for years, capturing the twisters on video and even using the tool to warn civilians in the weather’s warpath. He was one of the first on the scene in Joplin, Missouri, when more than 100 people had been killed, according to The Atlantic Wire.
“I thought it was critical that I stream what unfolded as it unfolded,” Piotrowski told The Wire. “I thought it would be helpful to show people the split-second decisions you have to make while storm chasing.”
The storm chaser has had numerous brushes with death over the years, his career having been inspired by a flash flood that nearly drowned him as a 14-year-old. He never expected that during his dangerous job, he would have to fear his fellow human beings.
The Dec. 26 incident occurred while Piotrowski was driving down the Texas highway following the recent tornadoes, recording the devastation on the video-sharing app Periscope and narrating what he saw, the New York Daily News reports. The region had been affected by a dozen tornadoes, resulting in the deaths of 11 people.
That's when Piotrowski spotted a red-shirted man on the road and felt compelled to help him.
“I gotta go back and help that guy,” Piotrowski says as he narrates to his live-stream audience. “It looked like he was injured.”
The red-shirted man approaches Piotrowski’s driver-side window, and the storm chaser asks him if he needs assistance.
“Are you hurt, are you OK?” Piotrowski can be heard asking the stranger. “Can you talk to me?”
The red-shirted man seems confused, finally answering, “I need an attorney.”
He then lunges at Piotrowski with a knife, grabbing him by the throat.
The violent encounter is not clear in the video, though it appears that Piotrowski is fighting for his life until finally hits the accelerator. His attacker struggles to hold onto the vehicle until he is thrown off.
Piotrowski then resumes his narration, telling his audience what had just happened.
“This guy just tried to attack me with a knife!” Piotrowski says. “I stopped to help him and he took a knife and tried to stab me!”
The storm chaser found a police officer a mile away and recounted the incident. The knife-wielding man was apprehended, although his name has not yet been released.
“If I had my gun, I would have shot and killed him,” Piotrowski told NY Daily News of the incident. “I felt extremely violated. It’s the only way to describe it.”
He added that the man appeared to be on drugs.