The bolt hit a tree in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House during an evening storm, according to authorities. On Friday, D.C. police announced that a 29-year-old man had died due to injuries from the strike. He was one of four victims rushed to the hospital in critical condition after the strike.
Victims James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, both died on Friday after the incident as well. The married couple was visiting the nation’s capital to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary
According to WTOP news, the Muellers had five children, 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
The fourth victim is reportedly in critical condition.
“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 after the Muellers’ deaths in a statement, according to NPR.
Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist and lightning expert who works as an analyst for a company that makes weather instruments, told The Washington Post that there was a “6 stroke flash near the White House that hit the same point on the ground” which means that six separate lightning strikes hit the same exact spot in a fraction of a second.
According to the National Weather Service, the average number of annual deaths recorded from lightning strikes (based on data from 2009 – 2018) is 27.
“Over the last 30 years (1989 – 2018) the U.S. has averaged 43 reported lightning fatalities per year,” National Weather Service noted. “Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability.”
Immediately after the tragedy occurred, a spokesperson for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services department issued a statement thanking United States Park Police members and Secret Service agents for their assistance.
“This statement is being made inside of a vehicle due to was significant storm conditions that are currently taking place in the area,” the spokesman said. “At 6:52pm, DC fire and EMS received a report of a lightning strike in Lafayette Park with multiple patients. When we arrived, we found a total of four patients. There were two adult males and there were two adult females. All four were suffering from critical life threatening injuries.”
“We were able to quickly treat and transport all four patients and they were all taken to area hospitals,” the spokesman continued. “We want to make note of the fact that uniformed officers from both the United States Secret Service uniformed division, as well as the United States Park Police who witnessed this lightning strike, we want to thank them for immediately responding to the scene and rendering aid to the for injured individuals.”
Ryan Saavedra contributed to this report.