DENVER — A famous Colorado storm chaser was killed Friday as he followed the massive tornadoes near El Reno, Oklahoma.
Tim Samaras, 55, was reportedly killed when a tornado made a sudden turn that sent dozens of storm chasers and reporters scrambling for safety.
His son, 24-year-old Paul Samaras, and friend, Carl Young, were also killed.
Samaras starred on the Discovery Channel show “Storm Chasers” for three seasons.
He was generally considered to be among the country’s leading experts in filming and imaging tornadoes.
Our Denver sister station, KDVR, spoke with other storm chasers about the group.
“There’s a lot of people in shock in the storm chasing community, especially,” storm chaser Eric Treece said. “Tim was one of the safest, mostly highly regarded chasers in the game.”
He also holds the Guinness World Record for the greatest pressure drop ever measured inside a tornado, the Weather Channel reported.
He designed, built, and deployed instrument probes to measure atmospheric variables such as pressure and wind in the path of tornadoes.
Samaras’s brother, Jim, posted a statement on Facebook Sunday:
“Thank you to everyone for the condolences. It truly is sad that we lost my great brother Tim and his great son, Paul. Our hearts also go out to the Carl Young family as well as they are feeling the same feelings we are today. They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they LOVED. … I look at it that he is in the ‘big tornado in the sky.’”
At the intersection where authorities said the three storm chasers were killed, crews hauled away a mangled white truck Sunday that had been crushed like a tin can.
The metal frame of their storm-chasing vehicle was twisted almost beyond recognition.
The windows had been smashed to bits.
Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West confirmed that three storm chasers had been killed but declined to provide additional details about the circumstances of their deaths.
Friday’s tornado took a sudden turn that surprised many observers, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.
“It was a wobbler. And it was big. … I think the left-hand turn made a big difference on how this thing was chased as well and why people were killed and why people were injured in their vehicles,” he said. “A vehicle is not a place to be in any tornado, especially a big one like that, and those men doing their job, those field scientists out there doing their jobs, were killed in the process.”
Tim Samaras founded TWISTEX, the Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes Experiment, to help learn more about tornadoes and increase lead time for warnings, according to the official website.
In 2004, he told CNN that being near storms was part of the job.
“In order to get directly in the path, you have to be close,” he said.
“Actually I’m pretty focused on our safety, certainly, and I’m focused on getting the data and getting the right spot,” he said. “You only have one chance to do it.”
CNN contributed to this report