A TV anchor and photojournalist from a South Carolina television station were killed Monday when a tree fell on their vehicle, a North Carolina state trooper said.
Master Trooper Murico Stephens said the tree struck the WYFF-TV vehicle around 2:30 p.m. Monday on U.S. Highway 176 near Tryon. The area received heavy rain from the fringes of Subtropical Storm Alberto.
Anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were heading to a story and "covering the rain impact in that area" when they were killed, WYFF confirmed.
“Mike and Aaron were stellar journalists, dedicated to covering news in this market,” John Humphries, WYFF 4 President and General Manager, said in a statement. “They were beloved members of our newsroom, and we will miss them tremendously. Today is a difficult day, and there will be many more ahead.”
WYFF-TV is based in Greenville, South Carolina. Tryon is just across the border in North Carolina.
The tree fell in Polk County, North Carolina, not far from where a landslide killed a woman in her home on May 19 after heavy rains.
WYFF anchor Carol Goldsmith said on air that McCormick and Smeltzer were "beloved members of our team — our family."
"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," the station wrote in announcing their deaths.
According to WYFF, McCormick was from Florida and started at WYFF in 2007 as a reporter in the station's Spartanburg newsroom. He became weekend anchor in 2014.
Smeltzer began as a WYFF photojournalist in the Spartanburg bureau earlier this year and was originally from Tazewell, Virginia, according to the station. He covered news in the Upstate for more than a decade, according to WYFF.
“All of us at WYFF 4 are grieving,” news director Bruce Barkley said in the statement. “We thank you for your comfort as we mourn. We ask that you keep Mike and Aaron's families in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”