A college student from suburban Grayslake and two fellow meteorology students at the University of Oklahoma were killed late Friday when their vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer while the students were returning from chasing a tornado in Kansas.
Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, and Nicholas Nair, 20, of Texas, were in a vehicle being driven by Nair when it hydroplaned on Interstate 35 about 85 miles north of Oklahoma City.
Speaking to NBC 5 Sunday, Gavin Short's parents expressed sadness, but also pride, because right before their son's death, he was doing something he loved: storm chasing.
"He loved it, and we were so happy for him," said Gavin's mother, Beth Short. "And it just, this is just the worst nightmare for us and two other sets of parents."
Gavin, who was a top meteorology student in college, told his parents he was going storm chasing in Kansas with two friends. After safely watching a tornado touch down, the trio was heading back to campus when their vehicle hydroplaned into the path of a semi.
The storm chasing crew on the college campus knew something was wrong when their beacons stopped moving.
"The students started calling each other, you know, started calling Gavin and Nick and Drake. And, you know, no one was answering," explained Gavin's father, Allan Short.
Gavin's parents said this was the 12th tornado he witnessed, but for Brooks, one of the other students, it was his first time seeing a tornado.
“I spoke with Drake's mother, Drake called his mom and said that he was at, he had the best night of his life with Gavin and Nick," Beth said. "And, and that was the last that we've heard from them.”
The National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma, honored the men by launching a special weather balloon in their memory.
Gavin hoped to work for the NWS one day.
“We love that he had that experience with his friends," Beth said. "And we want people to know that he was so good and so funny. And so giving, and we love him so much.”