Mike McCormick and Aaron Smeltzer had just finished conducting an interview in Polk County when a large tree fell onto their SUV

By Char Adams
May 29, 2018 10:39 AM
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Credit: WYFF

A pair of journalists died on Monday when a large tree fell on their SUV as they covered the hazardous conditions in North Carolina during subtropical storm Alberto, the news station announced.

WYFF News 4 anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were found in their car on Highway 176 around 2:30 p.m., officials with the Greenville, South Carolina-based station said in a statement.

According to the station, Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant said the car was running and in drive when first responders found the vehicle. The tree, about 3 feet in diameter, appeared to have fallen at the root.

“I have never seen an event like this one,” Tennant said. “It personally affected me a little bit because I had done an interview with Mr. McCormick about 10 minutes before we got the call. 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 during a news conference that the ground had been very saturated due to the heavy rainfall. He added that the vehicle was in motion when the tree’s root system failed.

“It is a freak of nature,” Tennant added.

McCormick had been with the station for 11 years and Smeltzer had worked with WYFF News 4 for about three months.

“All of us at WYFF News 4 are grieving,” station officials added. “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.”

Several journalists honored the men in on air, with many recalling heartwarming moments with the late team members.

“Honoring Mike McCormick and Aaron Smeltzer today. Our hearts are broken here at WYFF News 4,” WYFF meteorologist Chris Justus wrote in a Facebook post.

“We lost two great photo journalists yesterday as a tree fell on their vehicle while covering Alberto.”