KAY COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – Three University of Oklahoma meteorology students died Friday night when their vehicle was struck by a semi-truck on their way home from chasing severe weather in Kansas.
“It’s just so sudden,” said Brayden Siau, a University of Oklahoma meteorology student and close friend of the three victims. “They’re just gone, I really don’t know… It’s awful.”
Siau told NewsNation local affiliate KFOR that Nicholas K. Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas; Gavin A. Short, 19, of Grayslake, Ill.; and Drake H. Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Ind.; couldn’t have been more thrilled to be covering Friday night’s storms.
“They had a great day. They [called] their parents after and we’re telling them about how excited they were,” said Siau. “Drake actually saw his first tornado yesterday.”
However, the night took a devastating turn on their ride back to Norman.
The three students were traveling in a Volkswagen Tiguan, heading south on I-35 in rainy weather, when at approximately 11:23 p.m. the vehicle hydroplaned, lost control and went off the right side of the road. The vehicle reentered the road to the left and became disabled, blocking the outside lane, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officials said.
“Before they could exit their vehicle, a semi came along in the rain and struck them broadside in the interstate,” said Lt. Phillip Ludwyck, with Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
All three young men were pinned inside the Volkswagen for about five and a half hours. Tonkawa Fire and EMS officials freed their bodies from the wreckage. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
“It’s just heartbreaking to think we lost three very talented young men. Our hearts and our prayers, just as an agency and as Oklahomans, goes out to the families,” said. Lt. Luckwyck. “You know, they lost sons in just a tragic, tragic accident.”
An OU official released the following statement regarding the students’ death:
“The university is devastated to learn of the tragic passing of three students. Each were valued and loved members of our community. At this time, we ask the public to respect the privacy of their families.”MACKENZIE SCHEER, OU DIRECTOR OF MEDIA RELATIONS
The University’s School of Meteorology also posted a statement on its social media pages, which read in part: “Earlier today the OU School of Meteorology received devastating news that three of our students were involved in a fatal car crash last night. We have spent the past several hours working to confirm the information, all in the hopes that what we learned early today was false. We have since learned that the reporters we received were accurate, and university officials are in communication with the families.”
OU’s student-produced and run newscast, OU Nightly, also expressed their condolences by posting, in part:
“One of the students, Nic Nair, was a member of our OU Nightly Family. Nic served as a student broadcast meteorologist and production crew member on our newscasts this semester. Our hearts are heavy and our thoughts are with the families, friends and fellow meteorology students of all those lost as well as the staff and faculty at the OU School of Meteorology.”
Siau told KFOR friends of the three victims are planning to hold a candlelight vigil at the National Weather Center.
A tornado that barreled through Andover, Kansas, destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and buildings, injuring several people, officials said Saturday. No deaths were reported from the tornado itself, despite the widespread destruction.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.