Two men covering a rain storm for WYFF-TV News 4 were killed today when a tree fell onto the SUV they were in. WYFF News 4 anchor Mike McCormick and WYFF News 4 photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer died in Polk County, North Carolina where showers and storms producing flash floods were impacting the region. The two were working for the NBC affiliate in Greenville, SC, WYFF; moisture spinning around Subtropical Storm Alberto had been impacting much of the southeastern US with scattered heavy downpours.
According to WYFF-TV, Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant said the engine of the SUV was running and the transmission was in drive when authorities arrived at the scene about 2:30pm. He said the tree that fell on the SUV was about 3 feet in diameter and had stood back off the road; with the ground saturated by the recent heavy rains, the tree’s root system failed and fell onto the SUV on Highway 176 in the North Carolina county. “I have never seen an event like this one,” Tennant, who has been in fire service in Polk County for 44 years, said. WYFF said Chief Tennant spoke to the deceased reporter moments before the accident happened. “It personally affected me a little bit because I had done an interview with Mr. McCormick about 10 minutes before we got the call. And we had talked a little bit about how he wanted us to stay safe and I wanted him to stay safe and of course 10 or 15 minutes later we got the call and it was him and his photographer,” Tennant said.
In a statement, WYFF-TV said, “All of us at WYFF News 4 are grieving. We are a family and we thank you, our extended family, for your comfort as we mourn and as we seek to comfort the families of Mike and Aaron.”