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Virginia chamber of commerce executive in stable condition after on-air WDBJ shooting

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ROANOKE, Va.– The chamber of commerce executive shot during a live news broadcast in Virginia was in stable condition Wednesday after undergoing emergency surgery, officials said.

Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, was shot in the back, said Barb Nocera, the chamber’s special projects manager.

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.

The shooting occurred when Gardner was being interviewed in a live broadcast by reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Virginia-based WDBJ-TV.

Parker and Ward were killed 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, who used the name Bryce Williams on air, officials said.

Flanagan, 41, died Wednesday afternoon at a hospital, Franklin County Sheriff Bill Overton told reporters.

Click here for complete coverage of the on-air shooting that killed 2 journalists in Virginia.

Scenic area

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 the state capital of Richmond.