Storm chaser and meteorologist Tim Samaras, his storm chaser partner Carl Young, and his son Paul Samaras, were among the 11 people killed in the latest round of tornadoes and severe weather to hit Oklahoma Friday night, according to family members.
They were killed near El Reno in an EF3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph that ripped through the Oklahoma City area during rush hour.
Samaras, 55, his son Paul, 24, and Young, 45, were all killed while trying to document and research the storm. Tim Samaras was found inside his car with his seat belt still on. Paul and Young were pulled from a car by a tornado. One of them was found dead a half mile away.
"They put themselves in harm's way so that they can educate the public about the destructive power of these storms," Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West told the Associated Press.
Tim Samaras, 55, dedicated the last three decades to learning about tornadoes while he successfully combined his passion for storm chasing and an engineering career.
"I'm not sure exactly why I chase storms. Perhaps it's to witness the incredible beauty of what Mother Nature can create" Samaras said in a Youtube video posted on his website.
Samaras' brother, Jim Samaras posted a statement on Tim Samaras' Facebook book early Sunday morning:
"It truly is sad that we lost my great brother Tim and his great son, Paul. Our hearts also go out to the Carl Young family as well as they are feeling the same feelings we are today," the statement said. "They all unfortunately passed away but doing what they LOVED. Chasing Tornado's. I look at it that he is in the 'big tornado in the sky...'"
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.
Zee said Samaras left behind a legacy of work.
"He was a pioneer, he was getting things and teaching us things that no one else could do. This is a guy who was not just a meteorologist, he's an engineer, he's one of the smartest men I have ever met in my life," she said.
Samaras 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," according to his website.
Samaras also built a special probe equipped with cameras that "are able to look inside of a tornado safely."
The probe allowed Samaras and Young to document the tornado from different angles and speeds when they deployed the device in the path of a twister on June 11, 2004 near Storm Lake Iowa.
Terry Garcia, Executive Vice President, 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."
"The National Geographic Society made 18 grants to Tim for research over the years for field work like he was doing in Oklahoma at the time of his death, and he was one of our 2005 Emerging Explorers. Tim's research included creation of a special probe he would place in the path of a twister to measure data from inside the tornado; his pioneering work on lightning was featured in the August 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine," Garcia said in a statement. "Though we sometimes take it for granted, Tim's death is a stark reminder of the risks encountered regularly by the men and women who work for us. This is an enormous loss for his family, his wide circle of friends and colleagues and National Geographic."
Samaras also founded TWISTEX (Tactical Weather Instrumented Sampling in Tornadoes EXperiment) research group and appeared on the Discovery Channel show "Storm Chasers."
"This is a devastating loss to the meteorological, research, and storm chasing communities. I ask that you keep the families in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time," Tony Laubach, meteorologist and TWISTEX collaborator posted on the TWISTEX Facebook page . "There is some comfort in knowing these men passed on doing what they loved... Your support means the world. Thank you."
Young was chasing tornadoes with Samaras every spring since 2003 and together they tracked more than 125 tornadoes, according to his bio on the "Storm Chasers" website.
The pair met while Young attended a meteorlogical conference. Young started out working on Hollywood film sets until he was inspired to study the science of tornado dynamics.
He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a masters degree in atmospheric science.
"We're deeply saddened by the loss of @tim_samaras, his son Paul, and their colleague Carl Young. Our thoughts & prayers go to their families," The Discovery Channel tweetedthis afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.