TRYON, NC – A North Carolina state trooper says a tree fell across a highway, crushing a vehicle from a South Carolina television station and killing a TV anchor and photojournalist.
Master Trooper Murico Stephens says 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.
WYFF-TV says anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were heading to a story when they were killed.
A fire chief in North Carolina says he spoke to the TV anchor and his photojournalist out of South Carolina 10 minutes before they were struck and killed by a falling tree.
Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant’s voice broke Monday as he talked about recognizing the WYFF-TV vehicle under the large tree and the two men dead inside on U.S. Highway 176 near Tryon.
Tennant said at a news conference that WYFF-TV anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer told him to be safe as Subtropical Storm Alberto was expected to bring more flooding and mudslides to Polk County. Tennant says he told the TV crew to be safe, too.
Tennant thinks the roots of the 3-foot (91-centimeter) diameter tree were loosened in ground saturated by a week’s worth of rain.
The fringes of Alberto brought up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) of rain to the area Monday.
Anchor Carol Goldsmith said on air that McCormick and Smeltzer were “beloved members of our team — our family.”
The tree fell in Polk County not far from where a landslide killed a woman in her home on May 19 after heavy rains.
WYFF-TV is based in Greenville, South Carolina.