May marks the first anniversary of the El Reno tornado that killed famed storm chaser Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and colleague Carl Young. Nearly 12 months after the men were killed, the deputy who found their bodies is trying to raise money for a permanent memorial.
Canadian County Deputy Doug Gerten was driving past a field 1.5 miles south of I-40 and two miles west of Highway 81 on May 31, 2013, when he noticed the chase vehicle.
"All I could see was a white something out in the field," said Gerten. "I assumed it was a car just because there wasn't anything else around [there] I knew was that color. Once I got up to the car … that's when I knew that it wasn't good."
Gerten had just learned his farm had been wiped out minutes before finding the wreckage. He was checking on neighbors when he saw the car. Tim was found on the passenger side of the car. Paul and Carl were later found a quarter of a mile to the west. Gerten, who is acquainted with Tim's widow, wants to pay his respects to the three men in a very special way.
"We're wanting to just make a more permanent fixture out here for them," Gerten said.
Gerten is ready to donate granite stones from a state building. He purchased the stones in a surplus auction. The rest of the permanent memorial may cost a few thousand dollars.
"The financial part of it is having it all engraved and getting the artwork done and the permanent placement of it," Gerten said.
People from throughout the storm chasing world have already been to the El Reno area to leave mementos. With financial help, those storm chasers and deputies hope a permanent memorial will be realized. Gerten said he hopes to start working on the project as soon as possible.