Mother sues Weather Channel for $125 Million after deadly 2017 crash
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Nearly two years after a fatal crash took the lives of three storm chasers, the family of one victim has filed a $125 million lawsuit against the Weather Channel.
Troopers with the Department of Public Safety and deputies with the Dickens County Sheriff’s Office were called to the scene of the fatal crash near Spur, TX on March 28, 2017. The crash happened on FM 2794 at FM 1081, about five miles west of Spur, TX. At the time of the crash, storm chasers were following possible tornadic activity. DPS officials say all three were storm chasers. The crash involved two vehicles and officials say the crash was not weather related.
According to DPS, a black suburban was traveling northbound on FM 1081, disregarding a stop sign and collide with a black Jeep that was traveling westbound on FM 2794. There were two drivers and one passenger in the two vehicles. All three occupants were pronounced deceased at the scene.
The driver of the Suburban was identified as Kelley Gene Williamson, 57, of Cassville, Mo. Mr. Williamson was ejected from the vehicle at the time of the crash.
The passenger in the Suburban was identified as Randall Delane Yarnall, 55, also of Cassville, Mo.
The driver of the Jeep was identified as Corbin Lee Jaeger, 25, of Peoria, Arizona.
The mother of deceased motorist Corbin Lee Jaeger, who was 25 when he was killed, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on March 26, 2019, in Federal District Court in Lubbock, Texas. The lawsuit seeks $125 million in damages from The Weather Channel (TWC), which employed the two storm chasers who allegedly caused a deadly two-car crash just west of Spur, Texas, southeast of Lubbock.
The following information is from a news release sent to KCBD from the attorney’s of Jaeger’s family.
According to the lawsuit, TWC’s on air personalities Kelley Williamson and Randall Yarnall habitually ran stop signs, traffic lights and violated other basic traffic safety laws, in attempts to obtain video footage for their show, TWC’s “Storm Wranglers,” and for TWC’s weather programming. The lawsuit also alleges that TWC was aware of their dangerous, reckless driving habits.
The lawsuit states the incident occurred on March 28, 2017, while Williamson and Yarnall were chasing a tornado at 70 miles per hour during a rainstorm. The two were traveling northbound on Dickens County Road 419, to film a tornado for TWC and ran a stop sign at the intersection with County Road 419. According to San Diego attorney Robert A. Ball, who represents Jaeger’s mother, “The Chevrolet Suburban driven by Yarnall was live streaming for TWC when it ran into the path of the Jeep Patriot Jaeger was driving. The force of the collision caused the equipment-laden Suburban to catapult over a five-foot-tall fence 150 feet from the point of impact. Jaeger, a certified storm spotter for the National Weather Service, who had planned to return to college in Arizona to pursue a career as a meteorologist, was driving westward away from that tornado, when he was struck and killed.”
“The Suburban, which was so filled with storm chasing equipment driver visibility was impaired, was being operated on behalf of TWC as a mobile broadcasting studio to film severe weather and to collect film footage for “Storm Wranglers Season 2,” Ball said. “Yarnall and Williamson were streaming live footage to Williamson’s Facebook account and YouTube channel, as well as TWC’s Facebook account, and talking to a TWC employee via cell phone at the time the collision occurred.”
According to the lawsuit, TWC was made aware of multiple traffic violations before the collision by Yarnall and Williamson and was warned by other storm chasers that TWC should pull their stars off the road before they killed themselves or someone else.
According to Ball, TWC “transformed Williamson and Yarnall – who were not trained as meteorologists – into television celebrities although they broke multiple laws, including driving on the wrong side of roadways. Upon our review of several hundred live stream videos posted by Williamson, we determined it was just as likely Williamson and Yarnall would drive through a stop sign or traffic light rather than stop at one.”
The lawsuit also alleges TWC promoted Williamson’s and Yarnall’s “Storm Wranglers” as a dangerous enterprise purposely to mirror the excitement of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) cage fighting, during which the participants could be killed or injured. Additionally, the lawsuit states the storyboard chosen by TWC intended to portray Williams and Yarnall as “heroes.”
Storm chasers are used to track and monitor severe weather storms in attempts to provide early warning so residents can evacuate or take shelter. “They take pride in filming and reporting the story to protect area residents,” Ball said. “Unfortunately, Williamson and Yarnall, who were chicken farmers and cattle ranchers by trade, became the story, taking the life of Corbin Jaeger with them.”
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