POLK COUNTY, N.C. (WYFF)– An anchor and a photojournalist have died in a tragic accident.
It happened around 2:30 p.m. Monday on Highway 176 in Polk County.
WYFF News 4 anchor Mike McCormick and WYFF News 4 photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were killed when a tree fell on their SUV while covering the impact of heavy rain.
Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant told WYFF the engine of the SUV was running and the transmission was in drive when authorities arrived at the scene.
He said the tree that fell on the SUV was about 3 feet in diameter and had stood back off the road.
Tennant said the ground was saturated and the tree’s root system failed.
"I have never seen an event like this one," Tennant, who has been in fire service in Polk County for 44 years, said.
Tennant said he had just spoken with Mike and Aaron before the accident.
"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 I wanted him to stay safe and of course 10 or 15 minutes later we got the call and it was him and his photographer," Tennant said. "It’s the first time I ever met either one of those two gentleman, but you feel a sense of responsibility to them."