DENVER (CBS4/AP)– Deadly tornadoes that tore through Oklahoma on Friday have claimed the lives of at least 10 people, three of them storm chasers familiar to Colorado.
Tim Samaras and his son Paul lived in Colorado. Tim and his wife, Kathy, made their home in Bennett. Longtime chase partner Carl Young was with them when they were killed by the deadly twister.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said the men were involved in tornado research. They traveled the Great Plains in search of bad weather, hoping to warn people ahead of tornadoes and to help meteorologists understand the natural disasters.
The three died Friday night near El Reno when an EF3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph hit the Oklahoma City area during rush hour.
“They put themselves in harm’s way so that they can educate the public about the destructive power of these storms,” Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West said of the men Sunday after Oklahoma’s governor turned out to view damage in his area.
The National Weather Service says there were five tornadoes that struck the Oklahoma City metro area — including one that officials say killed at least 10 people.
Tim Samaras had appeared on the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” show until last year.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tim Samaras his son Paul and their colleague Carl Young. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families,” Discovery Channel spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said.
The channel planned to dedicate a show Sunday night to the three men, capping the broadcast with a tribute that will read: “In memory of Tim Samaras, Carl Young and Paul Samaras who died Friday, May 31 doing what they love, chasing storms.”
CBS4’s Heather Burke spoke with Tim Samaras’ younger brother, Jim Samaras. He’s shocked because he said Tim’s number one point about storm chasing was safety.
When tracking tornados, Jim said Tim always had emergency plans in place, but this one took an unexpected turn and he and his team couldn’t escape. But with those precautions, he remembers Tim’s great passion for sharing his love for tornados with others.
“Bottom line is, if I had to have a way for my brother to die (chokes up) … it would be doing what he did — chasing tornadoes. This was his passion. If he had to die, this would be it,” Jim said.
Jim says he knows if his brother would have survived he would have helped those who lost everything that day.
Jim posted the following statement on Tim’s Facebook page early Sunday morning:
“I’m Jim Samaras – Tim Samaras’s brother. 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. Chasing Tornadoes. I look at it that he is in the ‘big tornado in the sky…’ We (the family) will keep folks aware of what the funeral arrangements are, but please in the meantime keep Tim and Paul in your thoughts and prayers.”
Friend and fellow storm chaser Caryn Hill wants one message about Tim Samaras to be clear.
“Tim is one of the original pioneers of storm chasing. He’s beyond a safe chaser and the way he chases should be the standard for everybody,” Hill said. “He wasn’t in it to see how close he could get or anything like that, he was there for scientific purposes, always had an escape route. He had one that day, he just got closed off.”
Paul Samaras only recently began to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“He was a little reserved but (got) right into the storm chasing with his dad,” Hill said. “Awesome photographer; he was just into it as much as his dad was.”
According to The Weather Channel, the deaths are believed to be the first case of storm chasers losing their lives to a tornado.
Statement From Tim’s Wife And Daughters
We would like to express our deep appreciation and thanks for the out pouring of support to our family at this very difficult time. We would like everyone to know what an amazing husband, father, and grandfather he was to us. Tim had a passion for science and research of tornadoes. He loved being out in the field taking measurements and viewing mother nature. His priority was to warn people of these storms and save lives. Paul was a wonderful son and brother who loved being out with his Dad. He had a true gift for photography and a love of storms like his Dad. They made a special team. They will be deeply missed. We take comfort in knowing they died together doing what they loved. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
– Kathy Samaras, Amy Gregg, Jennifer Scott
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)