WDBJ reporter, photographer hailed by colleagues, friends

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ROANOKE, Va. -- Reporter Alison Parker was 24. A "rock star." "The most radiant woman I ever met," in the words of a colleague.

Photographer Adam Ward was 27. Engaged to be married. Ready to "do something else," according to a station staffer.

On Wednesday morning, Parker and Ward, both employees of Roanoke, Virginia, TV station WDBJ, were shot to death while doing a live report from a shopping district near Moneta, Virginia.

The person they were interviewing, Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was shot in the back and is in surgery.

The gunman is believed to have fired six or seven times, according to WDBJ General Manager Jeff Marks.

Parker was a native of the southwest Virginia area, having grown up in Martinsville, about 50 miles south of Roanoke.

"She was always so eager to learn," said Deon Guillory, a reporter -- now with an Augusta, Georgia, TV station -- who had Parker as an intern when she was a college student at James Madison University.

"She was so enthusiastic and she was doing what she loved," he told CNN. "She was living her dream."

Chris Hurst, an anchor at the station, said on social media that he and Parker were "very much in love." They had just gotten a place together.

"I am numb," he wrote. "She was the most radiant woman I ever met. And for some reason she loved me back. She loved her family, her parents and her brother."

"Your thoughts and prayers mean the world to me," he said.

Anchor Kimberly McBroom called Parker a "rock star."

"You throw anything at that girl and she could do it," McBroom said.

In her station biography, Parker said she liked to "whitewater kayak, play with her parents' dog Jack, and attend community theater events."

Parker did some reporting for CNN last year, reporting on a snowstorm in the Roanoke area. Guillory, her former colleague, said you could see her effervescent personality in that clip.

"You can even seen her smiling in the snow. That was the kind of person Alison was," he said.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, tweeted his sympathy.

Photographer Adam Ward had been with WDBJ since July 2011, according to a LinkedIn page believed to belong to him. He was a 2011 graduate of Virginia Tech.

Ward was recently engaged, according to Solina Lewis, a journalist who described herself as a friend of his fiancee.

"He was sweet, hard working, he came over to my apartment and put furniture together for me without (his fiancee) Melissa (Ott) even there," she said in a statement posted on @Breaking911. "Even though he had to get up for work and do the early morning live shot the next day."

"He was an incredible person, a great journalist and would have been a great father and husband," Lewis added.

Another journalist at the anchor desk said Ward was engaged to be married to Ott, a morning show producer at WDBJ. Ward told her, "I'm going to get out of news. I think I'm going to do something else."

A statement from Parker's father is as follows:

"Barbara, Drew, and I are numb, devastated and I find my grief unbearable. Alison was our bright, shining light and it was cruelly extinguished by yet another crazy person with a gun. She excelled at everything she did and was loved by everyone she touched. She loved us dearly, and we talked to her every single day. Not hearing her voice again crushes my soul. Our family can only take solace in the face that although her life was brief, she was so happy with it. She lived it to the fullest and her spirit will always be with us."

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