Two people have died after a lightning strike in a park just north of the White House on Thursday night, officials said. Two others were in critical condition.
Dustin Sternbeck, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said that the victims, James Mueller, 76, and his wife, Donna Mueller, 75, were pronounced dead overnight. The couple, who were from Janesville, Wis., were in Lafayette Square, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, when lightning struck.
The other two victims, whom the authorities identified only as adults from the West Coast, were in critical condition, Mr. Sternbeck said.
Vito Maggiolo, a spokesman for Washington’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said that around 6:50 p.m., two men and two women were in Lafayette Square when lightning struck in their “immediate vicinity.”
Secret Service agents and United States Park Police officers were nearby and immediately helped render aid, Mr. Maggiolo said. The four, who were apparently standing near trees in the seven-acre park when the lightning struck, were taken to nearby hospitals.
“Trees of course are not safe places” during storms, he said.
After a day of scorching temperatures reaching into the upper 90s, strong storms swept through the Washington area Thursday evening, prompting severe thunderstorm warnings and flash flood watches throughout the region.
The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are less than one in a million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, and nearly 90 percent of all people who are struck survive. Since 2006, the agency said, there have been 444 lightning strike deaths in the United States. Nine people have died so far in 2022 in lightning strikes in the country, according to the National Weather Service.
Amanda Holpuch contributed reporting.