WASHINGTON (AP) — A Wisconsin husband and wife celebrating more than five decades of marriage have been killed in a lightning strike outside the White House. A third victim was pronounced dead on Friday evening and another is hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.
James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, of Janesville, Wisconsin, died of their injuries after lightning struck Thursday at Lafayette Park, located just outside the White House complex, the metropolitan police department.
A third victim, a 29-year-old adult male, was pronounced dead on Friday. The fourth person, a woman, was in critical condition, police said. Their identities were not immediately revealed.
Authorities have not disclosed how the people were injured, other than to say they were seriously injured by lightning.
The Muellers were on a trip to Washington, DC, to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary, according to their niece, Michelle McNett of Janesville.
“They were a very loving couple,” McNett told the Wisconsin State Journal. “They were very, very family oriented. I think everyone is just in shock right now and kind of asking for privacy.
The couple had five children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, she told the newspaper.
Donna Mueller was a teacher and, in retirement, worked at the Comfort Shoppe, a local furniture store. Jim, 76, was a retired contractor who had his own drywall business.
McNett said she wasn’t sure why the couple chose the nation’s capital for their vacation, but added that “Donna was constantly learning.”
The husband and wife, according to their niece, love gatherings and just had a big family reunion a few weeks ago.
“They were very religious,” she said. “Just the kind of people who would give their shirt off their backs to do anything for you two.”
Secret Service and U.S. Park Police officers witnessed the lightning Thursday night and ran to provide first aid, officials said. Emergency medical teams were called to the scene just before 7 p.m. and transported all of the victims to hospital with “serious life-threatening injuries”, fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life following the lightning strike in Lafayette Park,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “Our hearts are with the families who have lost loved ones, and we pray for those who are still fighting for their lives.”