WASHINGTON DC – A Wisconsin husband and wife celebrating more than five decades of marriage were killed in a lightning strike outside the White House. A 29-year-old man also died, officials said on Friday.
James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, of Janesville, Wisconsin, died from their injuries after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park, located directly outside the White House complex, the Metropolitan Police Department said Friday.
The other two people, a man and a woman, were in critical condition after the Thursday night lightning strike, the police department said. Their identities were not immediately released.
Authorities said a 29-year-old man also died and another person remained seriously injured.
The Muellers were on a trip to Washington, D.C., 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 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 he’s not sure why the couple chose the nation’s capital for their vacation, but added that “Donna was a constant learner.”
The husband and wife, according to the niece, loved having meetings and had a big family reunion a few weeks ago.
“They were very religious,” he said. “Exactly the kind of person who would give their shirt off their backs to do anything for you, both of you.”
Secret Service and US Park Police officers witnessed the lightning on Thursday night and rushed to render first aid, officials said. Emergency medical teams were called to the scene shortly before 7pm and transported all victims to hospital with “critical life-threatening injuries”, fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life following the lightning strike at Lafayette Park,” said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.”
The White House issued a statement on the incident on Friday:
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life following the lightning at Lafayette Park. Our hearts go out to the families who have lost loved ones and are praying for those still fighting for their lives.”