The fire chief of Tryon, North Carolina, found two journalists dead after he was interviewed by them only minutes prior.
The TV crew, reporter Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer, were found dead after their S.U.V. was crushed with a fallen tree amid fringes of sub-tropical storm Alberto as it made landfall in Florida.
Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant said he took their deaths particularly hard because he had been talking to them about safety measures during extreme weather only minutes before their untimely death.
"It personally affected me a little bit because I had done an interview with Mr. McCormick about 10 minutes before we got the call, and we had talked a little bit about how he wanted us to stay safe and how we wanted him to stay safe," he said.
Tennant also said the vehicle was likely in motion when the tree struck as they found the engine running with the dead bodies inside.
“I don’t think it was a slide. I think it was just a matter of the tree root system had failed,” Tennant said.
McCormick had been working with WYFF News 4 since 2007 and later became the station’s news anchor for the evening news at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. broadcasts on Sunday. Smeltzer had only joined in February as a photographer.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has warned citizens to beware of serious weather conditions as Alberto makes its way through Florida and other southeastern states. He also offered his condolences for the deaths of the journalists.
“Two journalists working to keep the public informed about this storm have tragically lost their lives, and we mourn with their families, friends and colleagues,” Cooper said.
WYFF News 4 grieved the loss of their team members.
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
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: NASA/Handout via REUTERS