Anchor, photojournalist killed by falling tree on highway

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Photo from WYFF Photo from WYFF

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WAND) – A news anchor and photojournalist lost their lives Monday while driving on the highway.

WYFF reports its crew members, anchor Mike McCormick and photographer Aaron Smeltzer, died when a tree fell on top of their SUV. At around 2:30 p.m., firefighters responded to Highway 176 in Polk County, S.C.

The two men were covering heavy rain in the region at the time. Firefighters say the root system of the tree, which had a 3-foot diameter, failed. The ground around it was saturated. Firefighters say the car appeared to be running and in drive at the time of the crash.

Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant told the station he had just interviewed McCormick minutes before responding to the scene, adding that he felt a “sense of responsibility” to the men.

WYFF says McCormick spent over a decade working at the station, first in April 2007 as a reporter in the Spartanburg bureau and then as a 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sunday anchor. Before coming to WYFF, he was a reporter and fill-in anchor at sister station KHBS/KHOG in Arkansas.

Smeltzer, the Spartanburg bureau photographer, started working for WYFF in February of 2018. He covered news in the WYFF region for over a decade.

The station says Smeltzer was a big-time baseball fan and loved listening to traditional country music. It described McCormick as an avid cook outside of work.

WYFF issued a statement of sorrow on Monday evening in its online report.

“All of us at WYFF News 4 are grieving,” the station said. “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.”

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