TONKAWA, Okla. — Elizabeth Short on Sunday remembered her son Gavin as a gentle giant with a talent for math and physics and a genuine thirst for knowledge that he hoped to turn into a career as a meteorologist.

Standing about 6-foot-2, the 2020 Grayslake Central High School graduate devoured information on a subject so that he could form a logical conclusion, his mother recalled. He also put his big brain to work helping tutor friends and fellow classmates.

“He was just a brilliant kid,” Short said of her son two days after he and two fellow University of Oklahoma meteorology students were killed in a crash when their vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer rig in northern Oklahoma late Friday, according to a crash report. The students were traveling back from chasing a powerful tornado in Kansas, officials confirmed.

Gavin Short, 19, along with Drake Brooks, 22, of Evansville, Indiana, and Nicholas Nair, 20, of Denton, Texas, died in the crash shortly before 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.

The three were in a vehicle being driven by Nair southbound on Interstate 35 when the vehicle hydroplaned in Tonkawa, about 85 miles north of Oklahoma City, the report said.

The vehicle went off, then back onto the interstate, where it was struck by a southbound tractor-trailer rig, according to the OHP.

A statement released by the University of Oklahoma said: “The university is devastated to learn of the tragic passing of three students. Each were valued and loved members of our community.”

The driver of the semi was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released, the OHP said.

The report said it was raining at the time of the crash and the roadway was wet.

Elizabeth Short said she last spoke with her son Thursday and that her family has been trying to make sense of the tragedy since they received the devastating news over the weekend.

“Our world is blown up. Gavin was our oldest of three and we’re still really shellshocked because not only is this the last of Gavin, but it’s the last of the two other boys,” Short said. “We have a wonderful family and a wonderful community, and we’re really just enveloped with love but just trying to process.”

Gavin had planned to attend graduate school after graduating from the University of Oklahoma, and was working toward making his dream of becoming a meteorology researcher a reality.

“He was hoping to work maybe with the National Weather Service or some other organization,” Elizabeth Short said. “He was not a broadcast person — he did not want to be in front of the camera. He wanted to be the person behind the scenes, making the predictions and working to get better forecasts.”

Gavin had a “goofy” side, she recalled, but she said his intellect aided his ability to see other people’s points of view.

“(He) never had a bad word to say to other people. He was opinionated, has his own ideas, but he really worked hard to understand people’s point of view, even if he completely disagreed with them.”

In a statement from Grayslake Community High School District 127, Superintendent Mikkel Storaasli called Short a “beloved son, brother, friend, and student. On behalf of District 127, we send our deepest condolences to his family. This loss weighs heavy on all our hearts and our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time.”

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