Charles Peek, a tornado hunter, lost one of his storm chasing peers on Tuesday, he has been since inundated with Facebook messages. Peek and Kelley Williamson used to hunt tornadoes across the Great Plains.
The community reacts:
Williamson, 57, and Randall “Randy” Delane Yarnall, 55, were following a storm when they were involved in a head-on collision just west of Spur, Texas, on Tuesday afternoon. Both men and the driver of the second vehicle, storm chaser Corbin Lee Jaeger, 25, were killed instantly.
Williamson and Yarnall worked as contractors for The Weather Channel.
The loss of Williamson and Yarnall rocked the community of storm chasers across America’s Plains as well as members of the public who followed them, eagerly awaiting each livestream the men filmed.
Peek said”[The community] is deeply saddened. I was at the scene with several chasers who were there. It was very emotional. And the thing with Kelley and Randy is, they had a huge fan base and worked to publicly stream [storms].”
Billy Wade, 25 of Washburn, Missouri, a fellow storm chaser and photographer said that Williamson and Yarnall were some of his best friends. He told NBC News “Kelley was fearless. He was kind-hearted. He loved people and having to lay him to rest is going to be one of the hardest thing I ever have to do.”
Williamson’s Facebook page became a public memorial, with former colleagues and fans posting memories and condolences.
Williamson connected with viewers because of how accessible he made the content, both Wade and Peek said.
Fascination with storms:
Peek said that Williamson had been chasing storms for about four or five years. It started when his long-term girlfriend was caught in a tornado and injured years ago. Afterwards, he became captivated by weather phenomena, and followed storms from his home in Cassville, Missouri, all the way down as far as the Gulf of Mexico.
Yarnall was also from Cassville, Wade said. He was an old friend of Williamson’s and he asked Yarnall to be his driver when he started contracting for the Weather Channel
According to Sergeant John Gonzalez of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the crash is still under investigation. But it is believed that Williamson was driving at the time of the crash and ran a stop sign
The Weather Channel issued a statement saying “Kelley and Randy were beloved members of the weather community. We are saddened by this loss and our deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of all involved.”
Wade’s storm chasing now will be for Williamson and Yarnall. He said “I’m going to go chasing in remembrance of them now and for the rest of the year. They’re going to be right beside us and be our guardian angels.”