Remembering storm chaser Kelley Williamson, killed in crash in Texas

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SPUR, Texas (KSPR) -- Two Cassville, Missouri storm chasers are dead, killed while chasing a possible tornado in Texas.

But they didn’t die from the storm. They were killed in a crash.

One of the men was popular Weather Channel chaser Kelley Williamson.
Texas authorities say he was driving his Suburban down a country road near Spur, Texas when it hit another car. Williamson wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the car. Williamson’s chasing partner, Randall Yarnall, also from Cassville, died in the crash. As did an Arizona man in the other car. Authorities are still trying to figure out what happened.

Just two weeks ago, KSPR Chief Meteorologist Kevin Lighty interviewed Kelley Williamson here at KSPR about the dangers of storm chasing. When we asked him why he does it, Kelley said he loves storms.

"People ask what we do, well, we track weather, tornadoes for the Weather Channel you know," said Williamson. "About 50-50. Some people says you're crazy and the other half says - I want to go with ya."

But, when Kelly wasn't chasing storms..

"I raise chickens down in Cassville," said Williamson.

This was Kelly Williamson.

"Most farmers, all farmers just about have a little weatherman in them," said Williamson. "All my life, I've watched the weather, you know, to see if it was going to rain, if I could bail hail, you know, what was going to go on. So I just continued watching the weather and just got a lot more into it."

Kelley took it to the next step...and started storm chasing.

"I actually got started storm chasing," said Williamson. "I kind of got into local Storm Warn in Monett, Missouri up there in Barry-Lawrence County."

But Kelley soon found out he would have to leave home if he wanted to see more storms.

"You know, there just weren't quite enough storms around,, you know, I got to going, just waitin' for storms, you know, there just wasn't enough of them, so I just started going a little farther and a little farther (laugh)." said Williamson.

He drove all across the country streaming live video to the Weather Channel.

"Every tornado I see is amazing," said Williamson.

Just last year, Kelley captured 37 tornadoes, a feat that any storm chaser would tell you - is impressive.

"Every storm's got something about it's own personality, you know, it's just like a person," said Williamson.

His scariest moments on the chase were in Texas where his life would tragically end Tuesday afternoon.

"Yeah, you know, we had a couple scary moments in Texas," said Williamson.

His experience taught him the riskiest aspect of what he did was the danger that would ultimately take his life.

"The biggest danger out there is the other chasers and the Grandma that's trying to get her kids," said Williamson. "The tornado sirens are going off and she's trying to get them to safety. You know, you've got to watch out for everybody out there, and then the storms come secondary. As long as you go out there and be safe, you know, that's the main thing."

When I talked to Kelley last week, he told us he normally doesn't drive - Randy does. We may never know why he was at the wheel Tuesday. No word yet on services for the two men, but we will let you know when they are announced.

News release from Dept. of Public Safety in Texas:

The drivers and occupant in the two car crash west of Spur, Tx have been identified.

The driver of the Suburban was identified as Kelley Gene Williamson, 57, of Cassville, Mo. Mr. Williamson was ejected from the vehicle at the time of the crash. Mr. Williamson was not wearing his seatbelt. The passenger in the Suburban was identified as Randall Delane Yarnall, 55, also of Cassville, Mo. Mr. Yarnall was wearing a seatbelt.

The driver of the Jeep was identified as Corbin Lee Jaeger, 25, of Peoria, Arizona. Mr. Jaeger was wearing a seatbelt.

The crash is still under investigation.