Oklahoma tornadoes: Co-owner of storm-chasing company responds to criticism

BY BRYAN DEAN bdean@opubco.com Published: June 11, 2013

— The owner of a company that charges thousands of dollars to take people on storm-chasing tours apologized Tuesday for bringing one of his vans into the damage path of the May 20 storm and said he takes special care to keep tourists away from tornado-damaged areas.

Dave Holder is co-owner of Extreme Tornado Tours, which charges as much as $3,500 a person for storm-chasing trips across Tornado Alley. Holder said he has received complaints from those who saw one of his vans in Moore right after the May 20 EF5 tornado that leveled several neighborhoods.

Holder said there were no tourists in the van, which is wrapped in a graphic sporting the company's logo. An ABC News crew was doing a story on the company and needed to get to the area quickly after the storm.

“I'm not happy with the fact that we took that van in there,” Holder said. “It really bothers me that people would think we are out there sightseeing and viewing damaged areas and trying to make money off of the destruction of lives and property.”

Karey Link was one of the people offended when she saw the van in her neighborhood at SW 21 and Robinson. She said she was sitting on her curb waiting for her husband to get home and trying to find out whether her son, a fifth-grader at Briarwood Elementary, was OK when she saw the tour van.

“I thought, ‘How dare you make money off this,'” Link said through tears Tuesday.

“How dare they exploit something so personal and so raw. I didn't know if my son was alive or not. I was just so angry.”

Link said Holder owes her and her neighbors an apology. He agreed.

“I really would like to apologize to everyone who had to see that van there,” Holder said.

“That is the last thing you want to see when your home has been demolished. We would never intentionally drive into an area where a tornado hit.”

Holder said the people who take his tours aren't paying to gawk at damage. They are hoping to catch a glimpse of a tornado in a rural area where lives aren't in danger.

Tour participant's story

Candice Hon, of Clarksville, Tenn., took an Extreme Tornado Tour in 2012.

She said she was terrified but fascinated by tornadoes her entire life, but especially after one damaged her hometown in 1999.

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