DENVER - Colorado storm chaser Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras, and longtime chase partner Carl Young were killed in the EF-3 tornado that tore through El Reno, Oklahoma on Friday.
"They put themselves in harm's way so that they can educate the public about the destructive power of these storms," said Chris West, the undersheriff in Canadian County, where the men died.
A video camera from the totaled Chevrolet Cobalt was blown away when the twister hit. It's hoped the camera can be found so it can provide some clue of what went wrong.
"He was just caught up in a very unfortunate situation, where he was tracking a tornado and the tornado turned against him and there was no way he could get out from it," said Tim's brother, Jim Samaras.
Tim and Paul were both born and raised in Lakewood, Colo. but most recently were living in Bennett. Tim is survived by his wife, Kathy and two daughters.
The Samaras family released a statement Sunday afternoon asking for thoughts and prayers:
"We would like to express our deep appreciation and thanks for the out pouring of support to our family at this very difficult time. We would like everyone to know what an amazing husband, father, and grandfather he was to us. Tim had a passion for science and research of tornadoes. He loved being out in the field taking measurements and viewing mother nature. His priority was to warn people of these storms and save lives. Paul was a wonderful son and brother who loved being out with his Dad. He had a true gift for photography and a love of storms like his Dad. They made a special team. They will be deeply missed. We take comfort in knowing they died together doing what they loved. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers."
-- Kathy Samaras, Amy Gregg, Jennifer Scott
Tim Samaras was considered a leader in storm chasing expertise and tornado research and worked with 7NEWS, National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, Boeing, and the federal government.
Samaras and his team starred in the Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers" for three years before the show was canceled in 2012.
Tim Samaras was 55 and his son Paul was 24. Carl Young was 45 and was from South Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California - Nevada border.
Jim Samaras told 7NEWS that his brother's passion for storm chasing began when the movie 'Wizard of Oz' would come on the TV.
"He was entranced by the awe and mystery of the tornado," Jim Samaras said.
"It wasn't until Samaras was in his 20s that he started chasing the storms, not for the thrill, but the science. The thrills were a sideline. What I mean by that is, he developed several probes that have been deployed in tornados that actually measured barometric pressure," Jim said.
Samaras was considered one of the safest storm chasers in the business. His brother said during the Moore, Okla. tornado last month Tim stopped because of the danger.
"He knew he wasn't going to put him, his son or anyone else that was with him in the line of danger," said Jim Samaras. "He enjoyed it, it's true. But the technology he developed to help us have much more of an early warning and the passion he had for it and most importantly the saving of lives, and I honestly believe he saved lives, because of the tools he deployed and developed for storm chasing."
Tim founded TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes EXperiment) to pursue tornadoes and advance the research and warning available to the public.
"Tim Samaras has led, designed, and fielded complex instrumentation research efforts over the past 30 years," the TWISTEX website says.
Tim's son, Paul, had a gift for catching tornadoes on film.
Carl Young’s father, Bob Young, told CNN his son had always wanted to be a meteorologist.
--Reaction from friends and colleagues--
The deaths of the three men have stunned the storm chasing and weather science community. 7NEWS Chief meteorologist Mike Nelson,who has worked with Tim in a variety of weather and science projects, posted this remembrance on his Facebook page:
"Tim died doing what he loved, with people he loved - especially Paul. Kathy was the wind beneath their wings as she embraced and understood the passion that made them chase tornadoes.
"Tim was not only a brilliant scientist and engineer, he was a wonderful, kind human being. If anyone could be called the 'gentleman of storm chasing,' it would be Tim. He was iconic among chasers and yet was a very humble and sincere man.
"I have known Tim for two decades and while I never had the privilege to witness a tornado by his side, I lived vicariously through his amazing videos, Powerpoints, National Geographic articles and the numerous public seminars we presented during the past 20 years (both at KMGH and KUSA).
"The world has lost a truly amazing scientific mind, three very brave men and two families grieve with great pain - as do all of us who are diminished by their passing," Mike Nelson said.
"Tim and Paul were really good people and it was important to them that they were not thought of as simply storm chasers, but as scientist hoping to help get data to understand tornadic activity. They helped people build better constructed buildings among other things," said Brad Boggot, a 7NEWS photojournalist who traveled with Tim and Paul during severe weather season several years ago.
"It's just totally unbelievable what happened because it never should have happened to Tim," said Caryn Hill, a longtime friend and fellow storm chaser who lives in Bennett. "This is a big hole in the storm chasing community. He’s going to be missed forever."
"This has really shaken up everyone in the storm chasing community, we knew this day would happen someday, but nobody would imagine that it would happen to Tim. Tim was one of the safest people to go out there," Severe Storms Photojournalist Doug Kiesling told CNN.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Tim Samaras and his son. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family," said a Discovery Channel spokesperson.
Terry Garcia, executive vice president of National Geographic Society, said Samaras was "a courageous and brilliant scientist who fearlessly pursued tornadoes and lightning in the field in an effort to better understand these phenomena."
ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee knew Tim Samaras well and said his death was a reminder of the power of the storm.
"Out of all storm chasers he doesn't take chances, he's the one that puts the probes in the path of the tornado to learn more about them. He is not, you know, a young gun running around making bad decisions person, so I am so sad and shocked, it is such a loss for the community," Zee said of Samaras.
Tim Samaras has been following his passion for storm chasing for 30 years.
"It all started when I was about six years old and saw that fantastic tornado in The Wizard of Oz," Samaras told National Geographic.
Samaras was able to mix his passion with his career as an engineer. He has successfully gathered scientific measurements from inside of tornadoes and holds the world record for measuring the lowest barometric pressure drop (100 millibars) inside of a tornado that destroyed the town of Manchester South Dakota on June 24, 2003.
Samaras has also built a special probe with cameras that are able to look inside of a tornado safely. He successfully captured this in Storm Lake, Iowa on June 11, 2004.
He always reminded friends and fellow chasers to stay safe.
His last Tweet on Friday said, "Dangerous day ahead for OK--stay weather savvy!"
See the video below for more on Tim, as narrated by Tim, about what he did and why. (Mobile users, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4XEbZBRpm8)