A news anchor and photographer were tragically killed in Polk County, North Carolina, Monday after a tree fell on their vehicle.
Master Trooper Murico Stephens told reporters that a tree fell on a WYFF-TV SUV carrying anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer at “around 2:30 p.m.,” on U.S. Highway 176, near the town of Tryon.
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) May 28, 2018
McCormick and Smeltzer had just interviewed Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant. They told Tennant to be careful with Alberto’s remnant storm, expected to bring more heavy rains and mudslides this week. He told them to be careful, too.
“Ten minutes later we get the call and it was them,” Tennant said at a news conference, his voice cracking.
A woman died in a mudslide on May 19 not far from the wreck, and officials in Polk County were asking people living in vulnerable areas to voluntary leave before the weather got worse.
Neither Stephens nor Tennant directly blamed the up-to-two inches (five centimeters) of rain that fell Monday from the fringes of Alberto for the deaths. The fire chief said the roots of the three-foot (91-centimeter) diameter tree were loosened from the ground saturated by a week’s worth of rain.
WYFF News 4 tweeted the station is “grieving,” over the deaths.
“We are a family,” WYFF News 4 Twitter account added.
WYFF News 4 anchor Mike McCormick and WYFF News 4 photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer died Monday when a tree fell on their SUV. https://t.co/VZZKA6K6qq All of us at WYFF News 4 are grieving. We are a family. pic.twitter.com/IQmZ6prUIH
— WYFF News 4 (@wyffnews4) May 28, 2018
Multiple reporters expressed their condolences in response to WYFF News 4 tweet.
I keep rereading this because I can’t believe it. I‘m so sorry. I always admired Mike. He was so kind and talented. I interned under him in ‘11 and always thought his writing was second to none. I grieve with you tonight. He was a wonderful journalist and true community servant.
— Mark Barber (@MBarberWSOC9) May 28, 2018
I’m so very sorry. Thinking of Mike and Aaron’s families and everyone at WYFF.
— Maggie Carlo (@KOCOMaggie) May 28, 2018
— Liz Dahlem (@lizdahlem) May 28, 2018
From the @KGWNews family to yours– wishing you strength and comfort in this awful time.
— Katherine Cook (@KCookKGW) May 28, 2018
The @myfox8 family’s thoughts and prayers are with you. So sorry for your loss.
— Stephanie Erickson Doyle (@SDoyleWrites) May 28, 2018
I’m so sorry to hear this. Prayers for all who are grieving.
— Brenda Gazzar (@bgazzar) May 28, 2018
That's awful news hearing about the loss of two of your colleagues. Sending warm thoughts to your entire team from Santa Barbara!
— Alan Rose (@KEYTNC3Alan) May 28, 2018
Prayers to the @wyffnews4 family and the families of these two. We're with you!
— Anthony Sabella (@AnthonyWTKR) May 28, 2018
The Associated Press contributed to this report.