ROANOKE – The president and general manager of WDBJ described a morning of horror at the station as journalists saw two colleagues fatally shot while reporting a routine story on tourism at Smith Mountain Lake.
Jeffrey A. Marks told CNN that the gunman fired on the photographer Adam Ward first before striking reporter Alison Parker. A chamber of commerce official being interviewed was injured and remained in surgery.
"You send people into war zones... and you worry that they're going to get hurt," said Marks. "How can you expect something like this to happen?"
Marks described being in his car about 6:50 a.m. when his news director called and asked, "Are you aware of what just happened on the air?"
Marks said, "Your mind immediately goes to the worst and then you hope it's something less than that."
Marks described the harrowing footage: "They were doing a routine interview, you saw Alison on camera with the person she was interviewing, you heard several shots fired." He said it appeared Ward was shot first, and then Parker as she ran to escape the gunfire.
He said he hoped that initial indications that the condition of the chamber official, Vicki Gardner, were "positive," would be borne out over time.
"We have people walking around here in tears, a lot of hugs," Marks said. A friend of the newsroom who is a pastor was present and consoling people, he added.
Ward's fiancee, a producer at the station, was in the station's control room and saw the story unfold live, Marks said.
"So she saw it happen?" CNN asked.
"It's hard to imagine, isn't it?" Marks said. "It really is. And it was her last day here. She was moving on to a station in Charlotte. It was going to be a day of celebration here for her."
Ward was expected to follow her to Charlotte, Marks said. He described them as a devoted couple who "put smiles on each other's faces. They were planning ahead, they were planning a future."
Marks said the station had spoken with the Franklin County Sheriff's Department.
"They are working very diligently," he said.