TV anchor, photojournalist are killed while covering a story after tree falls on SUV
Anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were covering storms in their area when the incident occurred, according to WYFF-TV.
"All of us at WYFF News 4 are grieving. We are a family and we thank you, our extended family, for your comfort as we mourn and as we seek to comfort the families of Mike and Aaron," the station said in a statement released Monday.
WLOS reports traffic is closed on the road where the accident occurred is closed on both directions. ABC News 4 reports McCormick was interviewing a spokesperson for Polk County minutes before the accident happened. Their interview was focused on road conditions caused by the rain.
“It personally affected me because I had done an interview with Mr. McCormick about 10 minutes before I got the call, and we had talked about how he wanted us to stay safe and how we wanted him to stay safe," a fire-rescue official said in an afternoon news conference. "It was the first time I had met either one of those two gentlemen, but you feel a sense of responsibility to them."
The accident happened at a place that had been saturated by a week of rainfall, an unnamed Polk County official told ABC News 4. He called it a "freak accident."
McCormick was named as a weekend anchor for the station in 2014 and joined the company as a reporter. Smeltzer was a photographer for over a decade and joined the station last February.
The accident, which occurred on U.S. Highway 176, was caused by heavy rain in the region. On Monday, rain bands from tropical storm Alberto hit the South Carolina region causing at least two to three inches of precipitation.