Friday, 19 August, 2022

Lightning strike near White House kills three people

Three people, including an elderly couple celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary, were pronounced dead Friday after being struck by lightning in a park near the White House.

The lightning hit Lafayette Square, a small park across the street from the White House, shortly before 7:00 pm (2300 GMT) Thursday, leaving two men and two women with "critical life-threatening injuries," according to a statement from Washington's fire and emergencies department.

All the victims were taken to local hospitals, but on Friday morning the Metropolitan Police confirmed that two of them -- 75-year-old Donna Mueller and 76-year-old James Mueller, from Janesville in Wisconsin -- had been pronounced dead.

The couple had been high school sweethearts and were in the capital to mark their wedding anniversary, their niece Michelle McNett told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Later Friday, a third victim, a 29-year-old man, also succumbed to his injuries, police said.

The other adult remains in critical condition.

The victims had apparently sought shelter from the storm under one of the park's trees.

The strike was part of a severe thunderstorm that hit the American capital on Thursday evening.

According to the US weather service, lightning killed an average of 27 people per year in the United States over the past decade.

Only about 10 percent of people struck by lightning are killed -- typically from cardiac arrest -- but many are left with lasting disability including neurological damage.