Two of four people believed to have been struck by lightning Thursday near the White House have died, Washington DC police said.
James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, were a couple from Janesville, Wisconsin, police said.
Four people were left in critical condition after a flash of light and boom sounded in Lafayette Park in northwest DC as severe thunderstorms battered the area, firefighters said.
DC police are expected to release more information about the conditions of the other two victims later Friday.
Four people have fatal injuries after they were apparently struck by lightning near the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday night, fire officials said.
US Secret Service and US Park Police agents rushed to help the Muellers and the other man and woman when they saw the lightning strike, Vito Maggiolo, public information officer for the DC Fire and EMS.
The victims were in Lafayette Square across from the White House, and they were near the central statue of former President Andrew Jackson, as well as a tree, Maggiolo said.
Doctors took the women and men to area hospitals. Maggiolo said he couldn’t elaborate on their exact injuries.
“All we know for sure is that there was a lightning strike in their vicinity, in their immediate vicinity, and all four were injured,” Maggiolo said.
A total of 444 people have died in lightning strikes between 2006 and 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths from lightning are more likely in the summer and most often occur in people who participate in hobbies or work outdoors.
“I was just in shock,” witness David Root said. ” I could not believe it. Was surreal. I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life.”
He described hearing “a horrible boom”.
He said he went to Lafayette Square every night with a group to show his support for the Ukrainian people. When the rain started to fall, he took shelter under a tree until he saw lightning strike across the park.
Without thinking, he jumped into action to save a man’s life.
“We saw several people next to a tree, and they weren’t moving, so I ran over there to try to help,” Root said. “Several people ran over there and I gave him chest compressions with another person. We alternated.
“We were there, and suddenly there was this horrible noise,” said witness Anna Mackiewicz, who is from Poland. “We started screaming and my husband said, ‘Let’s run away.’ I saw out of the corner of my eye. I saw, you know, the light.
“I just hope and pray that these people survive,” Root said. “That’s the most important thought in my mind right now.”
Thunderstorms rolled through DC and surrounding areas around 6:30 p.m. Severe weather inundated parts of the region after a sweltering day of temperatures in the mid-90s and heat indices above 100.
The National Weather Service says anyone should come in if they hear thunder.
“Avoid open areas. Don’t be the tallest object in the area,” says an NWS safety brochure. “Stay away from tall, lone trees, towers, or utility poles. Lightning tends to strike the tallest objects in an area.”
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