TV channel sued over storm chase death

A tornado photographed over Texas in May 2017Image copyright
Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Image caption

Storm chasers track and film weather events for US television channels

A mother has filed a $125m (£95m) lawsuit against the Weather Channel over her son’s death in a car collision in Texas on 28 March 2017.

Two of the channels’ storm chasers, Kelley Williamson and Randall Yarnall, also died in the crash with 25-year-old Corbin Lee Jaeger.

But the lawsuit blames the chasers, who allegedly broke traffic laws while live-streaming their pursuit.

The BBC has contacted the Weather Channel for comment.

The suit alleges Mr Williamson and Mr Yarnall, while streaming the chase online, drove through a stop sign at about 70mph (113km/h) and crashed into Mr Jaeger’s vehicle.

The 25-year-old was working as a storm spotter for the National Weather Service. The suit says he was driving away from the storm and had right of way.

All three were instantly killed in the crash near the town of Spur.

“Kelley and Randy were beloved members of the weather community,” the Weather Channel said in a statement after the crash. “We are saddened by this loss and our deepest sympathies go out to the families and loved ones of all involved.”

But Mr Jaeger’s mother, Karen Di Piazza, has now filed suit in district court.

According to the lawsuit, Mr Williamson and Mr Yarnall “had a history of reckless driving when storm chasing” – running stop signs and traffic lights, driving on the wrong side of the road and making “dangerous, illegal passes of other cars”.

Their failure to stop at the sign was their “fourth such traffic violation that day”.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit says, the Weather Channel allowed them to keep working despite warnings about their driving and watching the driving “during live video feeds of their storm chasing”.

The suit also says filming equipment in their Chevrolet Suburban vehicle “dangerously obstructed the view”.

According to the US Storm Prediction Center, a tornado briefly touched down in that area on the day of the crash.

Heavy rain was also reported at the scene.

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