TV journalist killed by falling tree was St. Pete native

- Two TV journalists covering storms in Polk County, North Carolina were killed Monday when a tree came crashing down on their vehicle.

Reporter Michael McCormick and photographer Aaron Smeltzer, from NBC affiliate - WYFF in Greenville, South Carolina, were reportedly leaving an interview when a tree crushed their SUV. Officials say the engine was still running and the transmission was in drive when they got to the scene.

Now, those who knew McCormick - who graduated from St. Petersburg High School - are remembering the budding young journalist from the Bay Area.

FOX 13 Anchor Chis Cato knew both men when he worked in the Carolinas.

"Aaron and Mike were great people. They were wonderful people. They were kind and we need that kind of people doing this job," Cato said.

McCormick grew up in Pinellas County. He attended St. Pete High School where he was involved in TV production. 

Authorities believe the tree's roots were saturated by heavy rains 

"I don't think anything could have prevented this, except stay home," said Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, "And that's not what [reporters and photographers] do. You need to go out there and witness the story."

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