Two North Carolina TV journalists died Monday while they were reporting on heavy storms in the Polk County area. A tree fell on their SUV just minutes after they finished interviewing fire department officials.
Mike McCormick, a news anchor for WYFF News 4 and Aaron Smeltzer, a photojournalist for the station, were reporting from Highway 176 when the accident occurred.
McCormick had been working at WYFF since 2007 and was named anchor in 2014. Virginia native Smeltzer worked as a photographer in the station’s Spartanburg bureau and had just joined WYFF in February.
The duo were reporting on Subtropical Storm Alberto, which hit the Florida Panhandle Monday, resulting in heavy rain throughout much of the Southeast. A flash flood watch in the region is expected to remain in effect through Thursday.
“The ground is saturated. It was a large tree,” said Geoffrey M. Tennant of the Tryon Fire Deparment, who indicated that the vehicle had been moving at the time. “It was a freak of nature,” he said.
The station released a statement, saying, “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.”