TONKAWA, Okla. (NewsNation) — Three University of Oklahoma meteorology students were killed in a crash when their vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer rig in northern Oklahoma on Friday, according to a crash report.
The students were travelling back from chasing a tornado in Kansas, officials said. Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas; Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Illinois; and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, died in the crash shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
The three were in a vehicle being driven by Nair southbound on Interstate 35 when the vehicle hydroplaned in Tonkawa, about 85 miles north of Oklahoma City, the report said.
The vehicle went off, then back onto the interstate where it was struck by a southbound tractor-trailer, according to the OHP.
“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 OHP.
The 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 Luckwyck. “You know, they lost sons in just a tragic, tragic accident.
A statement released by OU said: “The university is devastated to learn of the tragic passing of three students. Each were valued and loved members of our community.”
Tributes also poured in across the country and national weather service offices — from Oklahoma to North Carolina — dedicated their daily weather balloon launches to the three chasers.
Additionally, a GoFundMe page has been set up for the three young men and their families, which, as on Monday, was north of $50,000.
The driver of the semi was taken to a hospital where he was treated and released, the OHP said.
The report said it was raining at the time of the crash and the roadway was wet.