Three people have died after a lightning strike in a park just north of the White House on Thursday night, officials said. A fourth person was in critical condition.

Dustin Sternbeck, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police Department, said Friday morning that two of the victims — James Mueller, 76, and his wife, Donna Mueller, 75, of Janesville, Wisconsin — were pronounced dead overnight.

On Friday afternoon, authorities said that a third victim, a 29-year-old man from the West Coast, had also died. Police did not release the man’s name because they were trying to notify his family.

A woman, who authorities said is also from the West Coast, was in critical condition Friday afternoon, police said.

Vito Maggiolo, a spokesperson for Washington’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, said Thursday night that two men and two women were in Lafayette Square, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, about 6:50 p.m. when lightning struck in their “immediate vicinity.”

Secret Service agents and U.S. Park Police officers were nearby and immediately helped render aid, Maggiolo said. The four, who were apparently standing near trees in the 7-acre park when the lightning struck, were taken to nearby hospitals.


“Trees of course are not safe places” during storms, he said.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, addressed the lightning strike in a news briefing with reporters Friday.

“This is the people’s house,” she said. “It should be a place all can see. We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park last night. Our hearts are with the families who lost lives, who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.”

After a day of scorching temperatures reaching into the upper 90s, strong storms swept through the Washington area Thursday evening, prompting severe thunderstorm warnings and flash flood watches throughout the region.

The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are less than 1 in 1 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, and nearly 90% of all people struck survive. Since 2006, the agency said, there have been 444 lightning strike deaths in the United States. Nine people had previously died in 2022 in lightning strikes in the country, according to the National Weather Service.