Hearst's WYFF TV Greenville, S.C., was dealing Tuesday with the loss of news anchor/reporter Mike McCormick and videographer Aaron Smeltzer, who died Memorial Day (May 28) when a tree fell on their SUV as they were covering the heavy rains in the area.
Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant called it a "freak accident." Tennant told the station the news of their deaths had particularly affected him since he had done an interview with McCormick and Smeltzer about the storm only 10 minutes before getting the call. He said Tennant had told him to "stay safe."
The station reported that the tree's roots had apparently been loosened by rains from subtropical storm Alberto.
“Mike and Aaron were stellar journalists, dedicated to covering news in this market,” John Humphries, WYFF 4 president and general manager, said. “They were beloved members of our newsroom, and we will miss them tremendously. Today is a difficult day, and there will be many more ahead.”
“All of us at WYFF 4 are grieving,” news director Bruce Barkley added in a statement from the station. “We thank you for your comfort as we mourn. We ask that you keep Mike and Aaron's families in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
McCormick had joined the station since April 2007 as a reporter in its Spartanburg, S.C., newsroom and was named an anchor of the Sunday 6 P.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts in 2014. He was a graduate of the University of Miami.
Smeltzer was the Spartanburg bureau's photographer, having joined the station in February 2018. He was a graduate of Radford University.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster tweeted his condolences late Monday:
"The two journalists died doing their jobs, trying to keep others safe," said Hearst President Steven Swartz. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and to their colleagues at WYFF and Hearst Television."
“Our hearts are heavy today after learning of the Memorial Day deaths of WYFF-TV Greenville, S.C., anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith. "NAB and the entire broadcast industry joins Hearst Television in mourning the loss of two young men who gave their lives as first informers to keep viewers safe in severe weather.”
The NAB issued a statement following Smeltzer's and McCormick's deaths: “Our hearts are heavy today after learning of the Memorial Day deaths of WYFF-TV Greenville, SC anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer. NAB and the entire broadcast industry joins Hearst Television in mourning the loss of two young men who gave their lives as first informers to keep viewers safe in severe weather.”