National Geographic : 2013 Nov
60 national geographic • november 2013 to be cut out of a wrecked vehicle. A lieutenant arrived on the scene and hap- pened to notice a body in a ditch a quarter mile to the west of the vehicle, lying facedown in a creek. Concerned that flooding would wash the body away, the lieutenant and the sergeant pulled it out of the water and carried it over to the roadside near the car. In the pocket of the corpse was a wallet with identification for a Carl Young of South Lake Tahoe, California. The VIN of the white car came back as belonging to Tim Samaras—which matched the driver’s license found in the pocket of the passenger. A mile south of the mangled white car, Union City firemen had found another crumpled vehi- cle and nearby, floating down a creek, a 35-year- old oil field worker and amateur storm chaser named Richard Henderson. Two other men were found dead in separate vehicles a mile west of where Henderson had been killed. And on In- terstate 40 the tornado had sucked a mother and her infant out of a sports utility vehicle, where- upon they were found battered to death amid a field of debris. All in all, the storm killed 22 peo- ple, including a family of six Guatemalans who had taken shelter in a drainage ditch, only to be swallowed up by floodwaters and carried several miles downstream to the Deep Fork River. At dawn the weary lieutenant decided to take a look one last time along Reuter Road. As the sky lightened, he discovered another body, also facedown in the creek, 15 feet from where the first strewn corpse had been found. He called the medical examiner’s office and waited for the car to arrive. The medical examiner, Eric Pfeifer, received descriptions by phone from those believed to be the families of the deceased found along Reuter Road. The hook nose of the corpse in the pas- senger seat matched that of Tim Samaras. The cleft chin, that of Carl Young. The black, scruffy beard, that of Paul Samaras. Kathy Samaras and her daughter Amy flew down to Oklahoma City three days after the tor- nado. They wanted to visit the scene of the acci- dent. It surprised them to see, laid on the ground at the edge of Reuter Road where the Cobalt and Tim had been found, three long-stemmed roses. It also surprised them that the Oklahoma City mortuary director, who had done his level best to make Tim presentable for viewing, refused to be paid for his efforts. For others in the storm-chasing community, one question was most excruciating: If it had happened to Tim Samaras, couldn’t it also happen to them?