Three storm chasers died while tracking a tornado in Texas Tuesday, killed when their two vehicles collided at a rural intersection after traversing more than 100 miles in search of the dangerous gale, officials said.
Kelley Gene Williamson, 57, was driving and Randall Delane Yarnall, 55, was riding in the passenger seat of a black Chevrolet Suburban when they allegedly went through a stop sign a few miles west of Spur about 3:30 p.m., authorities said.
The Suburban hit a black Jeep driven by fellow storm chaser Corbin Lee Jaeger, 25, of Peoria, Ariz., Sgt. John Gonzalez with the Texas Department of Public Safety told the Avalanche-Journal.
Williamson was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the collision and was ejected from his vehicle, Gonzalez said.
The other men were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the accident, but all three were killed instantly.
Williamson and Yarnall, both of Cassville, Mo., worked as contractors for The Weather Channel, which released a statement on the men’s deaths.
“Kelley and Randy were beloved members of the weather community," the statement read. "We are saddened by this loss and our deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of all involved."
The storm chasers were following a tornado through Dickens County when their vehicles collided, officials told CNN.
In the hours before his death, Williamson recorded his and Yarnall’s travels in search of the nearby storm in a livestream that was uploaded to YouTube after the deadly crash.
"Man, it is just raining like a son of a gun," Williamson can reportedly be heard saying in the footage, according to the New York Daily News.
As word of the fatal collision spread, tributes to the three men poured in from fellow storm chasers and friends and family alike, all mourning the loss of talented individuals taken too soon.
“Tragedy strikes our community once again,” wrote veteran storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski on Twitter, confirming the incident but declining to share their names.
“You have always been an amazing person and up for adventure, it breaks my heart,” one of many heartfelt posts written on Jaeger’s Facebook read.
“I was lucky enough to meet Randy and Kelley at an IHOP in Lufkin, Tx. this past Saturday,” another person wrote of Williamson and Yarnall. “They were super nice guys and genuinely happy to speak to me about the weather. I'm so glad I was able to meet them and so sad they're gone. I send my deepest condolences to the families of all three pioneers who were lost. R.I.P."