Kansas Storm Chaser Sues Over Montana Wreck of SUV

April 16, 2012

A Kansas storm chaser and photographer is suing a motorist whose car struck his SUV during a Montana snowstorm, alleging that the wreck destroyed a vehicle that had “unique value” for surviving more than 350,000 miles through hurricanes, tornadoes and other extreme weather.

Jim Reed of Wichita, Kan., filed the lawsuit April 6 in Helena against an East Helena man involved in the November 2010 crash. He is seeking unspecified compensation for his cranberry-colored SUV and his injuries, the Independent Record reported.

Reed said his 1994 Ford Explorer was featured in much of his work, including a two-page spread in the June 2009 issue of National Geographic, and in a 2009 series on the Speed Channel.

He said in the days preceding the crash, he had been taking photos of drivers in the snow without headlights and posting images on Twitter and Facebook to document the extra challenges of driving and being seen in severe weather.

“That’s just the cruel irony of life, I guess,” he told the newspaper in a telephone interview.

His lawsuit claims that his SUV slid down a business driveway and was stuck in the snow at the bottom when the other driver, who he alleges was speeding, slid into him. He claims that he was not at fault for “slipping on the highway in light of the weather conditions.”

The temperature was 10 below zero and there was blowing snow, Reed said.

Reed said he refused to accept the other driver’s insurance company’s offer to buy the wrecked SUV, and instead hauled it back to Kansas.

His lawsuit also seeks the income he lost because he was unable to work while he recovered from injuries suffered in the crash.

Reed has documented record-setting storms for more than 20 years, according to his website, and his work has been highlighted on television programs, major news networks and in art museums. He is the author of books including “Storm Chaser: A Photographer’s Journey” and co-author of “Hurricane Katrina: Through the Eyes of a Storm Chaser.”

The outpouring over the loss of the SUV surprised him, he said, adding that he received five or six invitations to Thanksgiving dinner in Helena.

“You would have thought I’d lost a child, or was a cowboy who’d just had had horse shot,” he said.

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