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Three University of Oklahoma students die in crash after Kansas storm-chasing trip

The trio was returning Friday night from Kansas, which was hit by tornadoes, when the vehicle they were in spun out and was struck.

Three University of Oklahoma students were killed in a crash as they returned Friday night from a storm-chasing trip to Kansas.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol identified the three people who died as driver Nicholas K. Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas; and passengers Gavin A. Short, 19, of Grayslake, Illinois; and Drake H. Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana.

The school confirmed the three were students.

"The university is devastated to learn of the tragic passing of three students," said university spokesman Mackenzie Scheer. "Each were valued and loved members of our community."

The highway patrol said the three were meteorology students who had been chasing storms Friday in Kansas, where tornadoes near Wichita ripped up homes and businesses and injured at least four.

Shortly before 11:30 p.m., they were returning to the Norman area amid rainy conditions when their Volkswagen Tiguan hydroplaned on Interstate 35, near Tonkawa, the highway patrol said in a statement.

The SUV stopped in a lane and was struck by a tractor-trailer, the highway patrol said.

It took rescuers more than five hours to get the three students out of the vehicle, it said. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the truck was taken to a hospital and released, the highway patrol said.

The crash was still under investigation.

The National Weather Service office in Norman memorialized the trio Saturday by launching a weather balloon in their name.

"On this very sad day in the Norman weather community, our evening weather balloon launch is dedicated to Nic, Drake and Gavin - OU meteorology students who died in a tragic traffic accident last night," the office tweeted.