Two of the four people who were apparently struck by lightning near the White House on Thursday have died, Washington DC police said.
James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, were a couple from Janesville, Wis., police said.
Four people were left in critical condition after a flash of light and a boom sounded in Lafayette Park in northwest DC as severe thunderstorms hit the region, fire officials said.
D.C. police are expected to release more information about the conditions of the other two victims later Friday.
Four people have life-threatening 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 officers rushed to the aid of the Muellers and the other man and woman when they saw the lightning strike, DC Fire and EMS Public Information Officer Vito Maggiolo previously said.
The victims were in Lafayette Square across from the White House and were close to the centerpiece 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 could not 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 died in lightning strikes between 2006 and 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths from lightning strikes are most likely in the summer and most often happen to people participating in outdoor recreation or work.
“I was just in a state of shock,” said witness David Root. “I just couldn’t believe it. Was surreal. I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life.”
He described hearing “a terrible boom”.
He said he goes to Lafayette Square every night with a group to show support for the people of Ukraine. As the rain began to fall, he took cover under a tree until he saw lightning strike 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 switched.”
“We were standing there and suddenly there was this terrible sound,” said witness Anna Mackiewicz, who is visiting from Poland. “We started screaming and my husband said, ‘Let’s just run away.’ I looked 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 moved through DC and surrounding areas around 18.30. Severe weather drenched parts of the region after a sweltering day with temperatures in the mid-90s and heat indexes above 100.
The National Weather Service says someone should go inside if they hear thunder.
“Avoid open areas. Do not be the tallest object in the area,” says an NWS safety brochure. “Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility poles. Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an area.”
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