Father-son storm chasers killed as ‘largest ever tornado’ hits car at 175mph

A father-son storm chasing team were killed when the largest tornado ever recorded picked up their car and launched it half a mile.

Tim Samaras, 55, and Paul Samaras, 24, died alongside meteorologist Carl Young, 45, on this day 10 years ago (May 31, 2013) when the 2.6-mile wide El Reno Tornado hit Oklahoma, US.

It was the first known instance of a storm chaser or meteorologist being killed by a tornado. The tornado also claimed the lives of five others.

READ MORE: TV weatherman prays 'Jesus, help them' as he sees giant tornado headed for town

The colossal storm consisted of multiple vortexes. Their vehicle was struck by one of the subvortexes that packed winds travelling up to 175pmh.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Betsy Randolph told USA Today she could hear their cries over her radio before the car was picked up.

She recalled: "They were screaming: 'We're going to die, we're going to die.' There was just no place to go. There was no place to hide."

Canadian County under-sheriff Chris West explained how Tim's body was found still strapped into the crushed car. The other victims were half a mile to the east and half a mile to the west of the vehicle.

He told The Washington Post the car looked "like it had gone through a trash compactor" when it was eventually discovered.

"The car was probably about 60 to 70% of its normal size because it had been pushed and mauled and compacted as it was tumbling down the road. Like wadded up," he explained.

West guessed the team were attempting to travel parallel to the storm before it suddenly changed direction. Data suggests it accelerated in speed and widened before hitting the car. It was also likely obscured by precipitation.

In tributes after the incident, Tim was described as a "respected tornado researcher and friend" and "a groundbreaker in terms of the kind of research he was doing".

Meteorologist Mike Nelson told the Denver Channel: "I have known Tim for over 20 years, he was the most brilliant and most careful severe weather researcher of them all.

"Tim was not a cowboy, he was as cautious as possible about his approach to studying these dangerous storms."

Terry Garcia, executive vice president of the National Geographic Society , said: "We were shocked and deeply saddened by the news that long-time National Geographic grantee Tim Samaras was killed in a tornado in Oklahoma on Friday, along with Tim's son Paul and their colleague Carl Young.

"Tim was a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning in the field in an effort to better understand these phenomena.

"The National Geographic Society made 18 grants to Tim for research over the years for field work like he was doing in Oklahoma at the time of his death, and he was one of our 2005 Emerging Explorers.

"Tim's research included creation of a special probe he would place in the path of a twister to measure data from inside the tornado; his pioneering work on lightning was featured in the August 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine.

"Though we sometimes take it for granted, Tim's death is a stark reminder of the risks encountered regularly by the men and women who work for us. This is an enormous loss for his family, his wide circle of friends and colleagues and National Geographic."

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