The OU community mourned the deaths of three meteorology students whose time storm chasing and pursuing the field they loved was cut short in a car crash Friday.
Nicholas Nair, 20, Gavin Short, 19, and Drake Brooks, 22, lost control of their 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan around 11 p.m. Friday near Tonkawa on Interstate 35, where they were struck by a semi-truck. The trio was returning from storm chasing near the Oklahoma-Kansas border after a powerful tornado touched down in Andover, Kansas.
Nair, Short and Brooks were members of the Met Crew Chasers, which is a group of meteorology students that gains real-life experience through research, classes and storm chasing.
Nair, a meteorology sophomore, served as a camp guide for Camp Crimson, where he met Olivia Sadler, a biology sophomore. She said Nair was one of the closest friends she ever had.
“His smile was contagious, his eyes were the kindest I’d ever seen and he didn’t know a stranger,” Sadler said. “I am a better friend and a better person because I knew Nic Nair, and I can tell you that every single person who knew him will tell you the exact same thing.”
Sydney Bush, a public relations freshman and web team member for The OU Nightly, met Nair while working for The Nightly. Nair served as a weather anchor and, although Bush didn't know him well, she said he spread kindness everywhere he went.
“I truly saw no malice or jealousy or saw any wrong intentions in the way he lived his life. He was so sweet, smart and kind, and just happy to be wherever and do whatever,” Bush said.
Brooks, a meteorology senior at OU, became a member of Met Crew Chasers earlier this year, and friends said he had the ability to make everyone laugh. Leigh O’Neil, a geographic information science sophomore and Met Crew Chasers member, said his humor was infectious.
“Drake was the newest to our group. He was always in a good mood and ready to make anyone laugh,” O’Neil said. “Please treat others with respect and kindness as they did. They didn’t judge anyone at all.”
Preston Roesslet, a meteorology sophomore and member of the Met Crew Chasers, said Brooks always had a meme for every situation, and could always make his friends smile.
Roesslet also said Short had a great passion for meteorology, and he believes Short would have been the next top scientist in his field.
Marissa McGuire, a meteorology sophomore and friend of the three students, wrote in a message to The Daily that Short was one of the smartest people she knew. He always seemed to know the answer to any problem and McGuire wrote that she admired him for his willingness to help his classmates. She wrote that he always put his friends first.
“Something I want everyone to know about him is that he was someone everyone could be friends with,” McGuire wrote. “He welcomed everyone in with open arms, his laughter and his kindness. He is going to be so missed among our friend group, the university, the weather community — everyone. He will be cherished in everyone’s lives forever.”
The National Weather Service in Norman dedicated their Saturday evening weather balloon launch to Nair, Short and Brooks. Other branches of the NWS, including locations in New Orleans and Rapid City, dedicated their evening balloon launches to the students.
OU President Joseph Harroz wrote in a Saturday letter to the OU community that the passion of all three students “serves as an inspiration to us all.” He wrote that OU is “immensely grateful” for each of the students and the impact they had on the OU community.
The OU College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences also released a statement Saturday extending its condolences to the students’ families and friends.
“Our community in Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences is close-knit, and our School of Meteorology is very much a family,” the statement read. “Now, more than ever, we must come together in kindness and heartfelt support for one another.”
The Met Crew Chasers organized a GoFundMe that will be split evenly between each family to aid them in travel and memorial expenses. The School of Meteorology is also planning a “celebration of lives event,” which is likely to occur on May 9 at the National Weather Center, according to an email from the school.
One thing Roesslet said he will remember the most about the three storm chasers is their shared passion for meteorology.
“Chasing storms with all three of them was so much fun,” Roesslet said. “I think that's definitely one thing I'll cherish forever and especially in the future going on storm chases. They will still always be there with us.”
This article was updated at 9:44 a.m. to reflect that Marissa McGuire is a current OU student.