Three of the four people taken to Washington area hospitals with life-threatening injuries after lightning struck near the White House have died. The lightning strike came amid a strong storm that blew through the U.S. capital on Thursday.
On Friday morning, officials confirmed James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, died from the lightning strikes. They were visiting Washington from Janesville, Wisconsin.
CBS News reported that the Mueller's niece said in a statement that the couple, who were high school sweethearts, were in Washington to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary. They leave behind five children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Later on Friday, authorities announced that a 29-year-old man had also died, but his name was not immediately released, according to NBC Washington.
On Thursday, just after the lightning strike, the U.S. Secret Service, along with U.S. Park Police, rushed to help two females and two males after seeing a large bolt of lightning strike an area in Lafayette Square, according to Vito Maggiolo, who is a public information officer for D.C. Fire and EMS who spoke to NBC Washington.
The area is just across from the White House, within a short walking distance. Authorities could not give exact injuries or an update on the victim's statuses as of late Thursday night.
As NBC Washington reported, a witness named David Root said he was "in a state of shock." He said, "I just couldn't believe it. Was surreal. I have never seen anything like this in my entire life.”
Root described hearing "a horrific boom" and said he goes to Lafayette Square park in the evening to show support for the people of Ukraine.
A camera trained on the White House used by television stations captured the moment the bolt of lightning hit the area.
Mike Thomas, a meteorologist in Washington, said the bolt "clearly hits either the ground or [a] nearby tree" because sparks are visible in the video.
The White House responded to Thursday's incident.
"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 we are praying for those still fighting for their lives," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
NEW: Our @fox5dc cameras caught the lightning strike that may have caused the injuries near the White House. Clearly hits either the ground or nearby tree. You can see the sparks on the ground after the contact. NEVER shelter under a tree during a storm. Lightning can be deadly! pic.twitter.com/ZCCDzRXMEJ— Mike Thomas (@MikeTFox5) August 5, 2022
Maggiolo told the New York Times that “Trees of course, are not safe places” during storms. Lafayette Square is covered in shade trees located in downtown D.C. in an area near tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants and bars.
The strike happened around 6:50 p.m. local time, where the two men and two women were located, in an area across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in Lafayette Square, in their “immediate vicinity," Maggiolo said.
The CDC says about 90% of people survive lightning strikes, and the odds of being struck by lightning in any given year is less than one in a million.