CARROLLTON, Texas — Hours before his death, Nic Nair was chasing storms -- and his dream.
“Storm chasing was his passion,” his mother, Kate Nair, said. “Broadcasting was his passion.”
That passion started as a child when Nic and his twin brother, Krishna, would sometimes watch The Weather Channel for hours.
“We’d pretend to be like a storm,” Krishna Nair said. “We’d like spin around pretending that we were tornadoes.”
Nic Nair, 20, grew up in Carrollton and graduated from Hebron High School, where he was president of the choir group. He was a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma, studying meteorology.
Last week, he and two other students, Gavin Short, 19, of Grayslake, Illinois, and Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, were chasing storms along Interstate 35, near the Kansas-Oklahoma border.
“He said 'dad a group of us are going storm chasing,'” his father, KG Nair, said. “'But we don’t have a car. Is it ok if I take my car?'”
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Friday night at 11:30 p.m., the group’s SUV hydroplaned and was disabled in the outside lane when a semi slammed into them, killing all three. The driver of the semi-truck was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released.
KG Nair said he got a message from a meteorologist around 3 a.m. that Nair and the group hadn’t returned from chasing.
“We were calling each hospital to find our son and to no avail,” he said.
Just before 6 a.m., two police officers came to the front door of their Carrollton home, sharing that Nic had been killed.
“We have our moments where we shed some tears, and it’s hard,” KG Nair said.
“It comes in waves,” Krishna Nair said. “It comes and goes.”
In a statement, OU’s College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences said, “We are deeply saddened and our sincerest condolences go out to all affected families and friends… Now, more than ever, we must come together in kindness and heartfelt support for one another.”
His family says Nic’s passion for weather, his energy and his compassion were as infectious as his smile, and his love for pets is why the family has two dogs now. He listened almost exclusively to DJ Illenium, who is scheduled to perform in Texas this month.
“He had mentioned that, 'I’m going to go to watch them.' He was working to make some extra money to go watch the show and it never happened,” his father said. “He’s seen half a life that he’s lived, but he’s lived it large, following his dream.”
“It was just nice to have someone to talk to and he was just there for a lot of people he touched,” his brother, Keane Nair, said.
Nic wanted to be a singing meteorologist, and he had his future and even classes for the next two years already planned out.
The family says it’s the small things they miss, remembering the times he’d spending watching storms roll by from the backyard and recording them on his phone and texts from college warning them of severe weather. His bond was tightest with his identical twin, Krishna.
“What’s the beautiful thing is as I get older, Nic will be – he will be getting older with me,” he said.
As a tribute, the National Weather Service in Norman released a weather balloon dedicated to Nair, Brooks and Short.
“Those three boys were happy doing what they were doing,” Kate Nair said. “They had had the best day.”
Keane was the last family member to speak to Nic, calling him just two hours before the crash.
“They just saw their first tornado all together,” he said. “They were like this is a huge milestone for them. I tell everyone this. I tell them this. He was just happy. That’s the best way God could have received him.”
“He says, 'I’m a storm chaser,'” his father said. “I tell him, 'No, you’re a dream chaser.'”
An online fundraising campaign was created to support the families of the three OU students.