Storm chaser involved in fatal accident

Very unfortunate news from Minnesota about a fatal accident that apparently occurred when a storm chaser ran a stop sign. I don't know anything more about the circumstances of the accident than what is in the newspaper article, so I will refrain from any judgment. In fact, it is not entirely clear whether he was chasing at the time, though as we all know storms were in the general area. All I will say is that this reinforces the importance of always driving in a safe and attentive manner, whether we are chasing or just driving.

http://www.startribune.com/authorities-driver-disobeys-stop-sign-kills-couple-in-van-near-willmar/314902301/
 
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Jan 18, 2015
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Very unfortunate news from Minnesota about a fatal accident that apparently occurred when a storm chaser ran a stop sign. I don't know anything more about the circumstances of the accident than what is in the newspaper article, so I will refrain from any judgment. In fact, it is not entirely clear whether he was chasing at the time, though as we all know storms were in the general area. All I will say is that this reinforces the importance of always driving in a safe and attentive manner, whether we are chasing or just driving.

http://www.startribune.com/authorities-driver-disobeys-stop-sign-kills-couple-in-van-near-willmar/314902301/
Ohhhh is this what was being talked about on twitter?

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Aug 16, 2009
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Article said accident happened shortly after 9pm. His FB profile has a video uploaded via his phone at 9:01 pm. Hopefully it wasn't a case of distracted driving but by 9pm there's still a decent amount of daylight left so he should have seen the sign. Regardless...this is a sad situation for all parties involved. There's not much Matt can do in terms of damage control, and he'll be at the mercy of the courts. I don't wish this on any person...
 
May 18, 2012
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My thoughts and prayers are with the family and Matt. This is so sad. The event brought me back to Nov 17th 2013 in rural NW Indiana when the same thing occurred to me, my four chase buddies, and another vehicle driven by a lady who had four kids in the vehicle with her. While I'm blessed to say we all walked away, and the physical injuries have healed, the horror of how things occurred still haunt my dreams as the driver. You can lose situational awareness and things can happen so fast out there. That's what happened to us though hydroplaning and speed also played a role in our wreck, but that's no excuse. You have to slow it the f%#k down, and be aware of what's around.
 
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Sep 25, 2006
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while my thoughts go out to the family, This just confirms what I have feared for several years. I hope that chasers will sit back and think about how they are chasing and the effects it can have. before I start a rant, I again have my thoughts out the the family.
 

Steve Miller

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It's interesting to consider that if one is chasing a storm, it can change the outcome of charges that might be filed in what would otherwise be considered an "accident".
Is chasing worth it? Can all laws be abided all the time? I like to think so but...
 
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Dan Robinson

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A Twitter search for NWS warnings at that time shows there were several severe storms (possibly supercells) just north of this location, moving southeast toward the Minneapolis area. So this was likely a chase-in-progress incident. Street View shows the east-west highway is a paved secondary road that has the stop sign, with the main highway the north-south road.

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.204026,-95.164903,3a,75y,6.38h,87.8t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sL2v30OpmnxAarRCrmZgj_Q!2e0!7i3328!8i1664!6m1!1e1

I doubt that storm chasing would/could be implicated here, but using a laptop/cell phone/tablet would.
 
Nov 18, 2006
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Sad story.

He is a seasoned chaser too, so this wasn't a case of careless noobs either. I'd be lying if I said I never once took my eyes off the road longer than I should have because I was looking at my laptop or something else...but seeing this is a reality slap to what can happen. I/we have got to work on that. There is so much multi tasking that goes on during chasing. Everyone please be careful.

I know when I have a partner chasing with me we always do the "clear" system, where my passenger will let me know the roads on their side are clear. We have to help each other out always.
 

rdale

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It's interesting to consider that if one is chasing a storm, it can change the outcome of charges that might be filed in what would otherwise be considered an "accident".
How so? The only way I could see that is if this was somehow occupation related but even that is a stretch. If I'm late for my softball game and run the sign, or running behind to go see Jurassic World and run the sign, are those no longer accidents?
 
May 18, 2012
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How so? The only way I could see that is if this was somehow occupation related but even that is a stretch. If I'm late for my softball game and run the sign, or running behind to go see Jurassic World and run the sign, are those no longer accidents?
Totally agree with Rob on this. Where a person is going, or what they're doing (adjusting the radio or yelling at the kids in the back seat) shouldn't have any bearing on charges. Driving recklessly, or failing to yield, are just that and that can happen anytime, and I'm sure have on occasion unfortunately resulted in the loss of life.
 

Mike Marz

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I chase solo almost 100% of the time and seeing this story really made me sick to my stomach... I would like to think that I would never look at radar or maps for navigation purposes while coming up to an intersection or in any type of busy area, but the truth is that sometimes things get pretty hectic out there and I am sure I have glanced away from the road a time or two in a not so safe area. I definitely do go out of my way to only navigate and watch radar when stopped or when I am completely away from any other traffic at all, but this is just a reminder to really pay attention to the road before anything else. It is also a good reminder that back roads and rural paved roads do not have the rumble strips warning you of an approaching intersection or stop sign. I have come across some dicy unpaved intersections before that have no stop sign in either direction.
 
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Steve Miller

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How so? The only way I could see that is if this was somehow occupation related but even that is a stretch. If I'm late for my softball game and run the sign, or running behind to go see Jurassic World and run the sign, are those no longer accidents?
Each story available on this subject mention he is a storm chaser and one goes as far as to say there was a storm within 50 miles:
Gingery is a storm chaser and onetime television meteorologist, who for many years has been tracking tornadoes and other violent weather from behind the wheel of his vehicle. His video recordings have appeared on the Weather Channel, CNN, CBS, NBC and FOX, according to his online professional bio.
It’s not known if he was on a storm-chasing trip at the time of the accident.
The weather in the immediate Willmar area was calm at the time of the crash Sunday night, but storms were brewing about 50 miles to the north. Numerous messages were left Tuesday with Gingery seeking information about his travels Sunday in Minnesota.
Now I'm pretty certain Rob, that you're not going to earn two paragraphs about the fact that you were on your way to a softball game, including your softball accomplishments. I also doubt you are on your way to a softball game with cameras stuck to the windshield, plenty of electronics within reach, and associated distractions. Lawyers would have a heyday with this, especially with the portrayal of storm chasers in the past several years. And holy hell if this were to happen in Kansas...

I have no idea if Matt was chasing or what equipment was in his car at the time but what I do know is if charges were filed and he was, these distractions would come into play - and they would for any of us with fully outfitted vehicles.
 

rdale

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I'm not questioning what he was doing (still awaiting confirmation but I'm sure you are probably right.) But I think you're talking about a civil case brought on by family members (aka OJ) not criminal charges. I suppose that's possible, but it those distractions have no bearing on the police charges. The cops don't ask what you were doing when you ran the stop sign - you are ticketed for running the stop sign.
 

Dan Robinson

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Distracted driving that causes a fatality is often prosecuted as negligent homicide/manslaughter. The driver usually sees severe consequences, often including some jail time. This is the kind of thing that could happen to anyone, but when it does, it does not turn out well for all parties involved..
 

Todd Lemery

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I feel horrible for the affected families. To lose loved ones who were simply driving down a straight stretch of road is horrible. That said, regardless if the accident was caused by activities related to storm chasing, the entire community is suffering another black eye every a reporter mentions storms chasing.
He could have suffered a mini seizure right before the stop sign and it would unfortunately still shed a negative light on all chasers just by the process of association.
I'm sure most of us, including myself, have not exactly (to put it mildly) stopped for every stop sign. Having a good chase partner watching out for traffic on their side and calling out the traffic status is a great asset to everyone's safety regardless if the driver comes to a complete and full stop or not. That's in contrast to the partner who says nothing while leaning forward and blocking your view while they look down the road.
 
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Jul 2, 2004
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The press story I read indicates a willingness on the part of the media to link storm chasing to causality. It's not surprising. Chasing captures media attention in a way that more prosaic activities such as softball games and graduation parties don't. There's obviously no innate connection between chasing and high-risk driving, any more than there is between fishing and boating accidents. It remains to be seen whether there was any connection in this chaser's case. Irresponsible driving while chasing, or at any time, is a choice, not an inevitability. A lot of people speed, period, and as for running a stop sign, that isn't always a flagrant disregard of the law; sometimes it's just a mistake

That being said, realistically, how many chasers drive at high speeds in adverse conditions when they're in chase mode? I've done it, and I've been partner to other drivers doing it. And with Rob (Forry), I've witnessed firsthand the sickening shock and disbelief of watching an inescapable situation unfold in front of me. This present event brings back haunting memories. Thank God, most truly, that no one was killed or even seriously injured that day. But that doesn't mean we walked away Scott-free; I lost my car and sustained cracked ribs which caused me severe pain for a couple weeks, and the other guys were hurting as well. It could have been a lot worse, though, and I am beyond glad that none of the innocent people in the other vehicle were injured.

Personal consequences aside, such incidents can reflect on storm chasing as a whole, whether rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly in any single situation. It's one thing for the public to think chasers are crazy for pursuing tornadoes. It's an entirely different thing for people to think chasers are crazy because of their driving and the attitudes they display on the highway. That image, once established, is hard to correct, and it has ramifications that can conceivably affect the future of chasing
 
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This event may have little to nothing to do with storm chasing, or distracted driving. It may just be how he learned to drive. It's common practice among rural Nebraskans (and other residents of nearby states) to run stop signs if you don't see a car coming on either side of the road. Not to say that it's right, but most, and I emphasize, MOST, rural drivers that I know do not stop at stop signs, they just go right through like nothing is there. As a city-boy (Omaha?) and storm chaser I make sure to stop at every sign, and I even slow down at intersections where I don't have to stop. Several friends of friends have been killed because of the "Nebraskans don't stop at stop signs" issue, and it's a cultural issue that needs to be addressed.
 

Jeff Duda

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Whether intentional or not, ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law. Even when chasing off-pavement on a dirt grid, you have to know there will be intersections ahead of you, and you should assume SOMEONE will be told to stop in some way. Even if there are unmarked intersections, you'd have to be pretty absent minded not to consider the possibility that there may be someone else trying to cross that intersection at any time. Intersections at any sort of highway or main arterial road would certainly be marked. Also there are certainly intersections out there with posted stop signs that are masked by overgrown trees and whatnot, but it's still irresponsible to not even look around to check for other traffic before proceeding through (at a slowed speed). I see from the narrative and Google Maps that there was a stop sign on Co. Rd. 27 at Co. Rd. 1, and it does not appear to have been covered or masked by vegetation or any other obstacles. Regardless, IMO there's no excuse for blowing through a stop sign (or red light for that matter) because you weren't looking for it.

Unless the facts change, I think Matt is in for a world of hurt legally. Barring some sort of sudden medical illness like a heart attack, seizure, or other sort of issue that made him lose consciousness and/or control of the vehicle, I don't see him getting out of some very serious charges and jail time.
 
May 18, 2012
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This event may have little to nothing to do with storm chasing, or distracted driving. It may just be how he learned to drive. It's common practice among rural Nebraskans (and other residents of nearby states) to run stop signs if you don't see a car coming on either side of the road. Not to say that it's right, but most, and I emphasize, MOST, rural drivers that I know do not stop at stop signs, they just go right through like nothing is there. As a city-boy (Omaha?) and storm chaser I make sure to stop at every sign, and I even slow down at intersections where I don't have to stop. Several friends of friends have been killed because of the "Nebraskans don't stop at stop signs" issue, and it's a cultural issue that needs to be addressed.
Royce - that happens everywhere, not just NE. I was raised a city boy but have lived in rural parts of TX, TN, and most recently southern MI and none of the locals in the boonies stop. It's going to be intersting to see how this unfolds.
 
Unless the facts change, I think Matt is in for a world of hurt legally. Barring some sort of sudden medical illness like a heart attack, seizure, or other sort of issue that made him lose consciousness and/or control of the vehicle, I don't see him getting out of some very serious charges and jail time.
Not to mention a lifetime of heartache and guilt for the victims and their families impacted.
 
Ignorant of the circumstances, I will say I blew a stop sign right through in 2012. A rural town perhaps in the Enid, OK area. I was driving east and the cell was behind me. Quite a few chasers, but not a herd. Small pack. I was quite out ahead of anyone behind, but not road rally speeding, and slowed to like 45-50 on the south side of this town. Saw a crossroad and checked both directions at least twice. Looks clear. Had probably slowed to 40. Saw the octagon about 20-30 ft from the intersection. Didn't even touch the brakes. Glad I'd checked both directions well. The stop sign was covered by a hanging small tree limb. Nor did I see the apposing direction's one. Perhaps it blended in with the grey background of the storm. Pain both sides with the reflective red? I've wondered for years.

Drive around OK a bit. You'll see this time and time again. You'd think the local proud lumberjack in the area would just get his butt out of the pickup truck, whip out the buck knife... ? Noooo. Not his job, right?

Also many places have no "stop ahead" sign. Might have used to be there, but not anymore. Come over a hill and 20 yds to the T intersection or stop sign. Driving in the rural midwest makes me wonder if State Farm gives a hoot. (Of course they don't. They're going to make 10%, regardless.)

Dear State of OKie. Mobile app? Google map, find location, if your car icon isn't already GPS positioned to that area. Place a marker. Fill in the reason: 1) No stop sign 2) cant see stop sign 3) need a stop ahead sign 4) pothole 5) road's so damn rough cause the county commissioner has a new _______, you just broke my car

And I don't think it's chase in many accidents. It's driving. So don't push your speeds. TV Chasers excepted of course. Go ahead and pass me at 85 in a 65 when the cell is 30 miles away. Or 90 miles away.
 
Learned about this on Monday and I have kept pretty mum about this for obvious reasons. Chatted very briefly with him yesterday.... heartbreaking deal for ALL parties involved -including Matt. I have known Matt for a number of years. Certainly haven't always seen eye to eye with him but this is a horrible situation for anyone and I truly feel for him as well as the family. Just like everyone else, I wasn't there so my next statement should not be taken out of context - I have no idea if Matt was distracted or how the situation unfolded but I suspect that we are all guilty of some type of distraction or another while chasing....it is the nature of the beast. But just to clarify, he was chasing. In fact, he uploaded a video to his FB account at 9:01PM. The accident was reported to happen just after 9PM.


I am very surprised the media as a whole hasn't jumped all over this thing yet, maybe it's because of the time of year, maybe it's because the local paper didn't pay their AP dues....I have no idea, but I am sure it's coming with due time. In all their infinite wisdom, the media reported some inaccurate information regarding distance to storms (go figure) not that that has any bearing on the outcome or the situation but it should probably be noted. As unfortunate as it is, the persona that has engulfed Storm Chasing within the mainstream media is what's going to carry this story, and likely will play some kind of role in it's direct outcome in one way or another I am afraid.

I can't/won't comment on the specifics because again, I wasn't there, but I feel a genuine sorrow for the family and for Matt. I have no idea what he is going through and certainly don't want to ever know, but I suspect it is sorrow, guilt, and all those raw emotions. Some of which we don't ever truly come back from.

As far as the legal aspect, none of us really have any clue as to how this will unfold, but @Dan Robinson hit the nail on the head with is post about distracted fatality accidents. Two years ago I served jury duty on such a case....woman driver plows over a guy on a motorcycle who was trying to make a left turn ultimately killing the driver of the motorcycle. The DA listed the root cause as distracted driving due to texting. However after taking blood samples just after the accident, she was also charged with driving under the influence. Apparently the woman had taken some type of cold medicine the evening before and it was found to still be in her system. Charges included vehicular manslaughter, negligent homicide, driving under the influence, texting while driving and a host of other charges.
After a two week trial and a 19 hour deliberate, she was found guilty of all listed charges. Sentencing included 15 years jail time with parole chances after 10 years and restitution of thousands of dollars. The judge called this a "light sentence"

I have no idea how this is going to pan out legally but I would imagine that it won't be easy. As Dan has said, this usually doesn't go well for anybody involved...my sincere thoughts go out to the family and to Matt.
 
Here in the UK, it's been illegal to use a handheld mobile phone for a number of years (i.e. holding it, rather than using Bluetooth, etc), and this includes sending texts, etc. I've noticed that parts of the US have started catching up, citing no texting, etc, outside schools. The point is this all harks to not using devices whilst driving - now, nobody's perfect, and I'm not about to start preaching when I think all here are of the same view...but we all have to remember that when we're driving, we're driving - this is the single most important thing at that moment. I certainly didn't appreciate this so much as a younger/newer driver, but with some years and plenty of miles under my belt I think my approach has changed quite a bit.