An elderly couple visiting Washington D.C. has died after being struck by lightning outside of the White House, authorities said Friday.
D.C. police confirmed that James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, of Janesville, Wisconsin, died of their injuries after being critically wounded by a lightning strike In Lafayette Park, located directly outside of the White House complex, WTTG-TV reported.
Two other people who were struck, a man and a woman, remain in critical condition, according to police. Their identities have not been released.
The White House issued a statement after the Wisconsin couple died of their injuries.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park. Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and are praying for those still fighting for their lives,” the White House said.
The lightning strike happened just before 7 p.m. on Thursday in front of the White House. Members of the U.S. Park Police and the Secret Service were the first to respond, administering CPR and AED to the victims.
D.C. Fire, EMS, and the Metropolitan Police Department were immediately notified and called to the scene.
Officials said the two men and two women who were struck were taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
At a press briefing Thursday, D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Vito Maggiolo thanked the first responders for taking quick action before emergency services arrived.
“What I want to do is thank them because their agents, their officers witnessed this lightning strike and immediately began to render aid to the four victims which is very critical in helping with survivability,” Maggiolo said.
Video of the lightning strike was captured by WTTG and went viral on Twitter, receiving more than 1.5 million views.
— Lindsay Watts (@Lindsay Watts)
Death by lightning strike is rare, the odds of being struck are less than one in a million, but it does happen. There were 444 people killed by lightning strikes between 2006 and 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most lightning deaths occur during the summer, especially in July.
Most people who are struck were participating in outdoor activities like recreation or work.
The National Weather Service warns that anyone who hears thunder should get inside immediately.
“Avoid open areas. Don’t be the tallest object in the area,” a brochure on lightning safety reads. “Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers, or utility poles. Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in the area.”