TRYON, N. C. – A TV news anchor and a photojournalist were killed Monday when a tree fell on their vehicle in North Carolina if they reported on floods and extreme weather conditions associated with Tropical Storm Alberto, the tv station said.
WYFF-TV Anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer both worked in the Greenville, South Carolina, the market for more than a decade, anchor Carol Goldsmith said on air, to the breaking of the news.
“Mike and Aaron were beloved members of our team, our family,” Goldsmith said.
The men drive on U.S. Highway 176 near Tryon to the large tree fell on their vehicle, North Carolina Highway Patrol Master Trooper Murico Stephens said.
McCormick and Smeltzer had just interviewed Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant. She told Tennant to be careful with Alberto’s remnant is expected to bring more heavy rains and mudslides this week. He told them to be careful.
“Ten minutes later we get the call and it was them,” Tennant said at a press conference, his voice cracking.
A woman died in a mudslide on May 19, not far from the wreck, and officials in Polk County asked people in vulnerable areas to voluntarily leave before the weather got worse.
Neither Stephens nor Tennant directly the fault of the 2 inch (5 cm) of rain, which fell on Monday, and the margin of Alberto for the death. The fire chief, said the roots of the 3-foot (91 cm) diameter of the tree were loosened in the ground saturated by a week of rain.
The TV-engine was still running and the transmission was in the drive when the crew found. The men died instantly, according to Tennant, who called the deaths a “freak of nature.”
McCormick was a weekend anchor for the Greenville drive, and covered in Spartanburg and the surrounding areas. He came to the station in April 2007.
Smeltzer worked in Greenville for more than a decade, and comes to WYFF-TV, another station in the market. He touted on his Twitter biography of the winning four emmy’s.
WHNS-TV reporter Derek Dellinger along with McCormick and Smeltzer, but also considered them friends. He called Smeltzer is a perfectionist and McCormick is a hard worker and a nice guy.
“Despite the fact that the contest, I had interactions with (McCormick), both in and outside of work, and we would talk about the work problems, talk about life — everything, because we were in such a similar position at our respective stations,” Dellinger said, called him “a good boy” with a warm heart.