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Three storm chasers died in a violent Texas collision. A mother now accuses the weather channel



The wall of coal-gray clouds drifted across the sky, the rain picked up and the storm jackets killed it.

Kelley Williamson and Randy Yarnall were looking for rotation, some signs of the birth of a tornado. Hurtling down a two-lane highway deep into the Texas Panhandle, they sat behind the dashboard of a Chevy Suburban pulled out with radar and computers and cameras in the afternoon of March 28, 2017.

The tension seekers were signed with the Weather Channel, the stars of their own show, "Storm Wranglers." When they drove, storm-fanatic viewers voted in their live stream on the Weather Channel's Facebook page.

"The storm is not that far ahead of us right now," said Williamson into the camera as they zoomed past a spinning windmill in northwest Texas. "In fact, it's the darkness you see right there."

Corbin Lee Jaeger, miles away, must have seen the same dark sky. As Williamson and Yarnall magnetized storms Jaeger, a 25-year-old certified storm spotter.

But that afternoon, the attraction will be fatal.

The Living Stream ended when Williamson, 57, and Yarnall, 55, blew through a stop sign, police said and smashed into Jaeger when he tried to cross a remote Texas cross.

All three men died immediately.

Now, Jaeger's mother, Karen Di Piazza, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Weather Channel over her son's death, seeking $ 125 million from the network, including properties from Williamson and Yarnall. In the trial, filed Tuesday in Lubbock, Texas, Di Piazza Weather Channel accuses of hiring two amateur storm chasers and then ignores others' warnings about their alleged reckless driving, resulting in her son's death.

"The Weather Channel was able to pull these two people away from the road or hire a competent law-abiding driver," the trial said. "Instead, the weather channel Williamson and Yarnall made television stars, breaking laws, drove on private property, drove off road, in ditches, through hail storms, drove the wrong road on highway ramps on the wrong side of the road, through red lights and stop signs , all to increase the risk of their television audience and sell advertising and get a hit show. The result was a young man's death, Corbin Lee Jaeger. "

The weather channel declined to comment on pending lawsuits, but said in a statement to The Washington Post: "We are sad of the loss of Corbin Jaeger, Kelley Williamson and Randy Yarnall. They were beloved members of the weather association and our deepest sympathy goes out to families and loved ones of all involved. "Lawyers have not yet been mentioned to residents Williamson and Yarnall whose representatives could not be reached.

The fatal collision raised concerns over the dangers of storm chasing while destroying storm-chaser communities that all three men were remembered for their unmatched passion for treacherous weather.

Jaeger, a Colorado native who had moved to Arizona with his family, was a certified storm spotter for the National Weather Service and also captured storm footage for a small crew called MadWx Chasing. "He had such a deep passion for the weather since he was a young child," said Di Piazza Denver 7 after his death. "He decided he wanted more to hunt and learn about the weather because his goal was to save lives."

Meanwhile, Williamson and Yarnall got fans around the country. They grew up together in Missouri, and by their own entry had no formal education and had not studied meteorology. Both were farmers and harvested chickens and cattle. Williamson, an eternal adrenaline junkie, was a former bullfight. He started chasing storms instead of a tornado turning his wife's van into the air several years earlier, a friend told CNN. Before long he became an exciting personality within the storm-hunting society; his YouTube channel boasted nearly 7,000 followers. When the weather channel came and invited him to offer his own show, he admitted Yarnall to be his driver, he said.

But according to the trial, the couple had a reputation for being wet skin with head feet.

The case highlights long text messages between a storm hunter and a female producer on the Weather Channel. The producer said she was planning to forward the storm hunter's concerns over Williamson and Yarnall's risk commitment to her boss and said she shared them.

"I'm not sure if you happened to catch any of Kelley's movements, but he sat down in a very bad place, living on air so God forbid if something happened we should see it live in the air "the trial claims the producer wrote and added" not good ".

"Oh yes, I saw it," replied the storm hunter who was not in the show. "I want to be honest with you – it just gets worse … Do 90 + mph to get to the position he was, just ask for bad things [to happen] … We just hope he doesn't do it You must not hurt or hurt anyone else. "

The day after the deadly collision, the storm hunter wrote the producer again – this time in shock.

He said he couldn't stop thinking about "all I told him to drive safely and not be so distracted … and then tell you I was worried that he was going to kill someone or himself. .. And then it happens So of course I'm in a dark place right now. I know many of us are. I think it's [what’s] killed me. I tried to tell him over and over. "

On the day he died, Jaeger planned to let the radar guide be his afternoon, without having any particular goal.

Parked in the gravel just outside a Paducah, Texas highway, he sent a picture of his Jeep from MadWx Chasing's Facebook account to update his followers and said he "reassessed the current chase plans ".

"Great hail in the plans for today, hopefully also a tornado," he wrote.

A Texas Department of Public Safety Officer told CNN at the time that a twister had been seen in Dickens County around the same time as the collision and that he believed all three men were the same. The lawsuit states that Jaeger drove away from the storm, while Williamson and Yarnall charged it rightly, allegedly at 70 mph.

In the last moments of the video, Williamson and the Yarnall approach the high-speed intersection, breezing past a warning sign for a stop sign, as the windshield rains. They come closer to the junction, but they do not go slow. Instead, the engine roars higher.

And just before a black jeep enters the frame, the buffers flow, freeze and stop.

This article was written by Meagan Flynn, a reporter for The Washington Post.


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