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, an OU meteorology student and close friend of the three victims. “They’re just gone, I really don’t know… It’s awful.”

Siau told KFOR 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 call 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 2017 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 OHP.

All three young men were pinned for approximately 5 hours and 26 minutes inside the Volkswagen. 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 this statement on its social media pages:

OU’s student produced and run newscast, OU Nightly, also expressed their condolences 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.

We appreciate the concern from countless OU Nightly alumni who have reached out from across the country and are fortunate to have their thoughts, prayers and support.

Counseling services are being made available for all University members impacted by this tragedy.”

– OU Nightly

Siau told KFOR friends of the three victims are planning to hold a candlelight vigil at the National Weather Center. The exact day and time has not been set yet.