Rain-Weakened Tree Falls on 2 Journalists Covering Storm

They had spoken to NC fire chief minutes earlier
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 29, 2018 5:31 AM CDT

WYFF in South Carolina is mourning two of its journalists, who were killed Monday while covering the effects of subtropical storm Alberto on the region. News anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were killed when a tree fell on their SUV in Polk County, North Carolina, about 30 miles away from the Greenville TV station. "Tonight, our news family grieves over the loss of two special journalists and two special friends," WYFF anchor Carol Goldsmith said at the start of the station's 6pm broadcast, less than four hours after the men lost their lives. Tryon Fire Department Chief Geoffrey Tennant told reporters that the large tree fell on the SUV as the men traveled on Highway 176, the Washington Post reports.

Tennant said he spoke to the men not long before the accident. "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." He said the men were killed instantly when the tree's roots came out of soil saturated by a week of rain and it fell. Alberto came ashore on the Florida Panhandle Monday afternoon and although it has been downgraded to a depression, authorities warn that the system could cause flooding as it brings heavy rain to Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas, the AP reports. (More journalists killed stories.)

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