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Saturday 3 December 2016

Journalist's fiancee saw him gunned down live on air by former colleague

Attack

Slain cameraman Adam Ward pictured at the moment he proposed to Melissa Ott
Slain cameraman Adam Ward pictured at the moment he proposed to Melissa Ott
TV7 news morning anchor Kimberly McBroom, centre, gets a hug from visiting anchor Steve Grant, left, as meteorologist Leo Hirsbrunner reflects after their early morning newscast at the station. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were fatally shot during an on-air interview in Virginia (WDBJ-TV/AP)
The scene of the shooting.
Community supporters light candles in the shape of a heart during a vigil for journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward who were killed during a shooting in Moneta, Va., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. Vester Lee Flanagan opened fire during a live on-air interview for WDBJ7, killing the two journalists Wednesday. (Autumn Parry/The News & Advance via AP)
Screenshot from WDBJ-TV7, in Roanoke, of reporter Alison Parker and Adam Ward (WDBJ-TV7/AP)

Colleagues had bought a cake and balloons, her wedding dress had been delivered that morning, and news producer Melissa Ott was beginning her final day at WDBJ7.

She was sitting in the station's control room producing the morning news as her fiance, Adam Ward, filmed reporter Alison Parker at around 6.45am. They were covering a story about local lake revitalisation.

Ott and Ward (27) had been due to leave Virginia for Charlotte, North Carolina.

As she wrote later that day on Facebook, Ott was meant to be "starting new adventures with my fiance, new jobs, a new city. Getting married, having a family, buying a home".

Instead, she said: "That's now taken. I'm not okay."

With the rest of the WDBJ7 crew and 40,000 viewers, Ott watched as former colleague, Vester Lee Flanagan II walked up to Ward and Parker (24) and shot them dead.

Speaking on air on Wednesday evening, Jeff Marks, WDBJ7 general manager, said those in the control room knew that "something terrible had happened".

The station cut back to Kimberley McBroom, the show's anchor. "I thought maybe a car backfired," McBroom said. "I thought maybe there were shots in the background. The county is kind of rural.

"We were busy trying to keep [Ott] calm and hopeful," said McBroom.

"That was a very hard thing to do."

Devastated

When news filtered through confirming the deaths of Ward and Parker, Ott was "devastated", said Marks.

Flanagan, who went by the professional name Bryce Williams, had also filmed as he approached Ward and Parker and fired at close range, before posting the videos on social media. After escaping, he sent a rambling 23-page fax to ABC News referring to a "race war" and describing himself as a "human powder keg… waiting to go BOOM!".

Following a police chase, Flanagan died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ott's Facebook page was filled with pictures of her and Ward, including his marriage proposal to her in Washington DC

In a tribute to Ward on the website, Ott wrote: "I will never find a man so happy, selfless, protective, funny, or charming like you. You were the one. You understood me. My soulmate."

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