In one of his final interviews, storm chaser Tim Samaras was looking for “supercell” storm system in Oklahoma capable of producing “pretty destructive tornadoes.”
He found it.
Samaras, one of three men who made careers on television as storm chasers, was among the people killed in Friday night’s storms and flash floods in Oklahoma.
The bodies of two children and seven adults were discovered Friday night. On Saturday, searchers found the bodies of four additional victims – two adults and two children who died while seeking shelter in a storm drain.
Oklahoma City Fire Chief Keith Bryant says as of Monday morning the death toll is 16, and the search for six missing people continues.
Samaras, his son Paul, and Carl Young were victims of a tornado that struck El Reno, Oklahoma. 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.
The county sheriff confirmed that three storm chasers had been killed but declined to provide additional details about the circumstances of their deaths.
In an interview about storm chasing several years ago Samaras said, “I’m focused on our safety and I’m focused on getting the data. You only have one chance to do it, and I want to make sure I’m in the right spot.”
He wasn’t drawn to the tornadoes for the thrill of it. Samaras had developed his own tornado probes to record meteorological data inside of tornadoes.
His goal was to understand why tornadoes form, with the hope of being able to increase warning times for people who live in Tornado Alley.
Samaras was also conducting research for Boeing. According to his website, he was testing the effects of large hail on the company’s new aircraft.
He was well known for his appearances on “Storm Chasers” on the Discovery Channel. That series ended in 2011, but the channel dedicated a show to him last night.
Jim Samaras, posted a statement on his brother’s Facebook page expressing sadness at the tragedy that cost the three men their lives.
“They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they loved,” he said.
The last message Tim Samaras posted was from May 27th, when he was chasing storms through Kansas and wrote:
“Everyone enjoy the chase–and hope that tornadoes wander over open country. Most of all, I reflect and appreciate the freedom this incredible country has to offer, and the ultimate sacrifices so many have made to make it happen.”
By LINDA THOMAS
CNN contributed to this report