Three people have died and another remains critically injured after a lightning strike near the White House on Thursday evening, police said.
James Mueller, 76, died late on Thursday, and Donna Mueller, 75, died on Friday morning, the Metropolitan Police Department confirmed to BuzzFeed News. The couple from Janesville, Wisconsin, was transported to the hospital in critical condition after the lightning strike.
According to police, a 29-year-old man was was pronounced dead on Friday. The fourth person, a woman, remained in critical condition. Neither of their identities were immediately released.
The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services first received a call for a report of a lightning strike with multiple patients in Lafayette Square at 6:52 p.m., said Vito Maggiolo, spokesperson for the department. When first responders arrived, they found four individuals — two men and two women — suffering from what Maggiolo described as "critical, life-threatening injuries."
Officers with the United States Park Police and US Secret Service witnessed the strike and immediately rendered aid to the individuals, he said. DC Fire and EMS then treated and transported them to area hospitals.
Videos shared on social media showed rain pouring down from a dark cloudy sky at the park on Thursday evening. It was not immediately clear how close the individuals were to the strike or whether they were directly hit by the lightning.
"All we know for sure is that there was a lightning strike in their vicinity, in their immediate vicinity," Maggiolo said.
He added that they were also near a tree, a risky place to be when lightning strikes.
"Well, obviously anytime there's lightning you should go indoors or you should go to a safe place," Maggiolo said. "Anybody who goes to seek shelter under a tree, that's a very dangerous place to be."
He urged people to be "weather aware," noting that anytime you see lightning or hear thunder, it's not a good time to be outside.
"'If it roars, go indoors' is the general guideline," he said.
The odds of being struck by lightning are low, but it does happen and can be fatal. According to the National Weather Service, an average of 43 people per year were killed by lightning strikes between 1989 and 2018, and only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed.
During the 2020 protests over the police killing of George Floyd, two National Guard members who were patrolling Lafayette Square were struck by lightning. They were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, officials said at the time.