Journalist from Florida, photographer killed after tree falls on news vehicle

Posted at 8:17 PM, May 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-29 02:47:23-04

Two people in North Carolina, including a Florida native, have been killed after a tree fell on their news vehicle, according to local officials.

The victims were employees of NBC affiliate WYFF in Greenville, South Carolina, the station confirmed on its website.

The accident occurred Monday afternoon on U.S. Highway 176 in Polk County, according to a post on the Facebook page for the Polk County local government.

WYFF identified the victims as anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer, who were covering the impact of the heavy rain in the area.

McCormick was a Florida native and graduated from St. Pete High School.

The ground in the area is saturated from all the recent rainfall, Tryon Fire Chief Geoff Tennant said in a press conference Monday afternoon.

It appears that the vehicle was in motion when the tree became uprooted and fell in excess of 30 feet, crashing on top of it, Tennant said.



Tennant had just done an interview with McCormick 10 minutes before the fire department got the call for a downed tree, he said.

"It personally affected me because I had done an interview with Mr. McCormick about ten minutes before we got the call and we talked a little bit about he wanted us to stay safe and how we want him to stay safe," said Tennant. "Then we get the call and it was him." 

Officials are warning citizens to consider evacuating the area due to the unstable ground, Tennant said. The rain forecast from the approaching subtropical storm Alberto could cause the terrain to become even more unstable.

The highway has now been shut down between Thompson Road in Saluda and Harmon Field Road in Tyron. Officials have warned citizens to avoid the area "because travel has become dangerous."

In addition, flash flood watches have been issued for the area, officials said.