The husband of Vicki Gardner, a chamber of commerce executive who survived being shot in the back during a live news broadcast in Virginia, was watching on TV as the tragic events unfolded.
Tim Gardner told CNN’s Chris Cuomo he was “stunned” at what had happened but relieved that he was able to speak to his wife by phone as she was taken to the hospital.
“When she called me she told me she had been shot in the back and that she was lucky to be alive,” he said.
She was even able to get up and walk to the ambulance, he said, although she now has “a long recovery period” ahead.
The shooting occurred when Gardner — the executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce — was being interviewed in a live broadcast by reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Virginia-based WDBJ-TV.
Parker and Ward were both killed in the attack at Bridgewater Plaza near Moneta.
The gunman fatally shot himself as police confronted him on Interstate 66, and he has been identified as former WDBJ-TV reporter Vester Flanagan, 41, who used the name Bryce Williams on air, officials said.
“There’s no making sense of it,” said Tim Gardner of the attack. “Obviously a very disturbed individual wanted to take out his former co-workers. Just a senseless deed and my wife happened to be there at the wrong time.”
Officials said Wednesday that Vicki Gardner was in stable condition after undergoing emergency surgery.
Her husband didn’t detail what treatment she was undergoing.
But the fact she was able to walk to the ambulance was “very promising,” he said, considering that medics told him the bullet grazed her spine.
Chamber board chairman: Gardner a ‘visionary leader’
Gardner was recovering at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, hospital president Steve Arner said. Gardner is also a member of the hospital’s board of directors and is “a close friend” of the institution, he said in a statement.
Gardner has been working at the chamber since 2002, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Chamber board chairman Troy Keaton described Gardner as “an exceptional bright light in this community.”
“We are confident she will recover and continue her strong leadership here at SML. She is a bright, energetic, positive, visionary leader who has given so much to this community. We will stand strong with her through this,” Keaton said.
“We’re going to get together as a community and stay together and make it through this,” Keaton added.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe called the shooting, which killed two journalists, a “senseless tragedy.”
“We also continue to pray for the safe recovery of Vicki Gardner, who was wounded in this terrible incident,” he said.
As executive director of the chamber, Gardner is a leading figure promoting business development and recreational attractions at the lake community near Roanoke, Virginia.
Smith Mountain Lake is noted in Virginia for being the state’s second-largest freshwater lake and is a scenic attraction with more than 500 miles of shoreline along the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, according to the Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Virginia State Parks website.
The lake, a reservoir, has a dam on the Roanoke River that was built in the 1960s, the project’s website says.
The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce is organizing a 50th anniversary event in 2016, the chamber’s Facebook page says.
The lake is home to residents and recreational businesses, and the water passes through hydroelectric generators to provide electricity for the region, the dam project’s website says. The water and landscape attract anglers, boaters, campers, cyclists and picnickers, the state parks website says.
The lake’s 1,148-acre state park is 33 miles southeast of Roanoke and 150 miles west of Richmond, the state capital.