GREENVILLE, SC (WYFF) - WYFF News 4 anchor Mike McCormick and WYFF News 4 photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer died Monday when a tree fell on their SUV.
The accident happened on Highway 176 in Polk County while they were covering the impact of heavy rain in that area.
Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant said the engine of the SUV was running and the transmission was in drive when authorities arrived at the scene about 2:30 p.m.
He said the tree that fell on the SUV was about 3 feet in diameter and had stood back off the road.
Tennant said the ground was saturated and the tree's root system failed.
"I have never seen an event like this one," Tennant, who has been in fire service in Polk County for 44 years, said.
Tennant said he had just spoken with Mike and Aaron before the accident.
"It personally affected me a little bit because I had done an interview with Mr. McCormick about 10 minutes before we got the call. And 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."
Mike joined WYFF News 4 in April 2007 as a reporter in the Spartanburg newsroom. In 2014, he was also named anchor of WYFF News 4 on Sundays at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m.
Mike came to the Upstate from Arkansas, where he was a reporter and fill-in anchor at one of WYFF 4's sister stations, KHBS/KHOG, for nearly three years.
Mike graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in broadcast journalism and theater arts. He had two dogs, both adopted from the Spartanburg Humane Society. When he was not reporting or anchoring the news, you would find him in the kitchen. He loved using local, fresh ingredients from the Hub City Farmers' Market.
Aaron was the photographer in the Spartanburg bureau. He joined the WYFF News 4 family in February of this year.
Aaron shot news for more than a decade in our region. He was originally from Tazewell, Virginia, and graduated from Radford University with a degree in broadcast video communications. He was an avid baseball fan.
Aaron loved traditional country music- including Keith Whitley, Randy Travis and Alabama, just to name a few.
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.