Four people in Washington, DC, were transported to the hospital last night with life-threatening injuries as a result of a massively powerful lightning strike that occurred just outside the White House.
James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, of Janesville, Wisconsin, both died of their injuries overnight, the Metropolitan Police Department said.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.”
The two others, a man and a woman, remain hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Their identities were not released.
“It shook the whole area,” an unnamed witness told the Washington Post. “Literally like a bomb went off, that’s how it sounded.”
First aid was administered to the victims by uniformed agents of the Secret Service and U. S. Park Police officers who were in the area at the time of the attack and witnessed it.
“The thunder was so loud, @gabrielle_ake and I jumped up in fright,” CBS News chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes tweeted. “‘That’s too close – we’re shutting down’ advised photographer Ron Windham.”
Our camera was rolling on the White House North Lawn tonight when lightning struck Lafayette Park nearby, injuring four. The thunder was so loud, @gabrielle_ake and I jumped up in fright. “That’s too close — we’re shutting down” advised photographer Ron Windham. pic.twitter.com/oTtU9VeQBw
— Nancy Cordes (@nancycordes) August 5, 2022
Witness David Root told WRC-TV he heard “a horrific boom.”
“I was just in a state of shock. I just couldn’t believe it. Was surreal. I have never seen anything like this in my entire life,” said Root.
“We saw several people beside a tree, and they weren’t moving, and so I ran over there to try to help,” he added. “Several people ran over there, and I gave him chest compressions with another person. We alternated.”
“We stood there, and suddenly there was this horrible sound,” witness Anna Mackiewicz said. “We started to scream, and my husband said, ‘Just let’s run away.’ I saw in the corner of my eye. I saw, you know, the light.”
Statement from @dcfireems regarding the lightning strike at Lafayette Park – #DCsBravest express sincere gratitude to the Uniformed Division of @SecretService and officers of US Park Police/@usparkpolicepio for rendering immediate medical care to the injured. #SaferStrongerDC pic.twitter.com/3ubPNA3MXn
— DC Fire and EMS (@dcfireems) August 5, 2022
According to Chris Vagasky, an analyst for Vaisala, which operates a nationwide lightning network, at 6:49 p.m. there was a “six stroke flash near the White House that hit the same location on the ground.”
That means six surges of electricity hit the same location in less than 0.5 seconds.