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Details emerge about 3 University of Oklahoma meteorology students killed in crash after chasing tornado: "Unthinkable heartbreak"

Storms and tornado hit Kansas
Destructive tornado hits parts of Kansas 02:50

More information is emerging about three University of Oklahoma meteorology students who were killed in a crash when their vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer rig in northern Oklahoma late Friday. The students were travelling back from chasing a powerful tornado in Kansas, officials confirmed, and they had posted video of a twister just hours before they died.

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.

Nicholas Nair, 20, Drake Brooks, 22, and Gavin Short, 19. KWTV

"It appears that they hydroplaned, struck a barrier wall, and then became disabled crossways in the interstate," Lt. Phillip Ludwyck of the OHP told KWTV.

The vehicle went off, then back onto the interstate where it was struck by a southbound tractor-trailer rig, according to the OHP. All three students were pinned for over 5 hours and then extricated by first responders on scene.

"This terrible news hits hardest, of course, for those who knew Drake, Nic, and Gavin the best – their families, friends, faculty, staff, and others important in their lives," wrote the university's president, Joseph Harroz, Jr., in a letter Sunday. "Since their untimely deaths, there has been a tremendous outpouring of love and affection for each of them, not only at OU, but beyond."

In a separate statement, the school's College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences  urged students to seek help, if needed, as "we all grieve this unthinkable heartbreak."

Just hours before the deadly crash, Nair and Short tweeted videos of a tornado they witnessed near Herington, Kansas.

Nair contributed to the university newscast, OU Nightly, and one of his weather reports was on the newscast's website Thursday.

Thursday Weather Brief April 28, 2022 by OU Nightly on YouTube

"You think about the future that they had and the intelligence and the wisdom and it's just heartbreaking to think we lost three very talented young men," Ludwyck told the station.

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.

"Drake, Nic, and Gavin were united in a shared passion," the university's president wrote in his letter. "As we grieve this immeasurable and profound loss, we also remember the root of their chosen calling, which was to help others. Their pursuit of that calling is admirable and serves as an inspiration to us all."

On Saturday, the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma dedicated its weather balloon launch to the three students.

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