Guest Column on Tuesday’s Deadly Chase Wreck
by Steve Miller (TX)
[The following is reposted by Steve’s permission from a private discussion. It follows my post yesterday emphasizing the more general live-streaming angle. Our thoughts correspond strongly on this event and Steve states the issues well.]
I am not going to sugar coat anything. I understand that Kelley and Randall are nice, friendly guys. It is tragic they lost their lives and that I am posting this less than 24 hours after the wreck. I understand that I will come across as a cold-hearted asshole. I also understand I may not have “all of the facts”. Yes, I am not perfect and have made mistakes too. So please spare me these types of comments and responses. For if you feign outrage over that rather than the circumstances surrounding this event, then you are part of the problem.
Based on numerous conversations I have had with others, reviewing video from yesterday and prior instances, all combined with known behavior of some chasers in the past some of which I have personally witnessed, yesterday’s event was bound to happen sooner or later. I am not calling this an “accident” for a good reason.
First, the video of their live stream leading up the split second before impact. There were THREE roadway signs indicating a stop sign and intersection ahead. A “JCT” sign indicating a junction ahead. A yellow triangular sign with a red octagon indicating a stop sign ahead. And a green directional sign showing left/right turn destination towns. And the fourth sign of course was a stop sign.
It was quite clear that neither the driver, Kelley, nor Randall acknowledged the stop sign and pending intersection. There was no mention of it and no change in driver action such as slowing down. You can clearly see all of the signs as they go by them. How do two people miss those signs…particularly the driver? How can that be? At that point, I was still considering major distraction factors such as looking at laptops for radar, streaming feed, navigation, looking at the storm. Certainly they didn’t intentionally blow through that stop sign without even slowing down to keep up with the storm, did they? After all, I have seen it done before both on feeds and in person.
A few conversations and posts I’ve seen elsewhere state that Kelley has flagrantly blown through stop signs and intersections before as witnessed on their streaming feeds and personally. They aren’t alone however as I’ve seen this happen with other chasers, particularly a certain big orange/red “tornado chaser” pickup truck whom I have also had nearly run me off the road as they passed in a no-passing zone approaching a blind hill…in rain. There are LOTS of incidents of stupid and extremely dangerous behavior by chasers out there. Sure, the vast majority of chaser do NOT do this. And to be clear, I have been on chases and seen nothing but perfectly safe behavior. I am talking about a small minority.
The “justification” for blowing through stop signs and intersections are probably related to being out in a rural area and little to no traffic and a quick look to see if the coast is clear. A regular habit of that easily lulls one into complacency.
So, in my opinion, it is probable they blew through it intentionally. Is it also possible they simply did not notice the signs and the stop sign itself because of various factors such as driver fatigue and inattention? Sure. We won’t ever know for sure. At the very least, this was negligent and possible grossly negligent. The truly innocent victim here is Corbin Jaeger driving the vehicle which was struck. He could have been ANY one of us who chases storms. Let that sink in deeply for a moment.
How many of you out there witness reckless and dangerous behavior by other chasers (and the “locals” who are even more dangerous) and yet never do anything about it? How many look the other way when it is a “popular” chaser or a “nice guy”? How about if it is a friend of yours? Who has witnessed Kelley’s prior driving behavior and remained quiet?
Granted, it is a very dangerous thing in the “storm-chasing community” to speak up and call others out on bad behavior. Such “whistleblowers” can be savagely attacked, maligned, destroyed and even threatened in the “storm-chasing community”. Make no mistake about that. The intimidation factor is high when trying to speak out. Believe me, I know. It is also why I carry for self defense. There are some true psychopaths in our “community”.
With that said, some of the responsibility of yesterday’s accident also rests on the shoulders of the “storm-chasing community”. Hopefully, this is a huge wake-up call to start holding each other accountable for reckless and dangerous behavior out in the field. It just might save YOUR life, the life of your friends and family, and help prevent such tragedies in the future. And there WILL be more if the status quo remains unchanged. Next time, it could be a van full of storm-chasing tourists. It could be innocent locals in a church van or a school bus…or a family with kids.
Think about it long and hard and commit do doing something serious about it.