Two people who were hospitalised after an apparent lightning strike near the White House, have died, a police spokesman said on Friday.
Four people – two men and two women – were critically hurt in the strike just before 7pm on Thursday in the centre of Lafayette Park, in a grove of trees near the White House.
The US Secret Service and the US Park Police rendered aid to the victims, assistance that fire officials credited with all the victims’ initial survival.
Police identified those who died as Donna Mueller, 75, and James Mueller, 76, of Wisconsin. The others remain in critical condition, police said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement: “We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park. Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives.”
The lightning was unleashed by a severe thunderstorm that swept across Washington DC just before 7pm.
Chris Vagasky, an analyst for Vaisala, which operates a national lightning detection network, said in a message that there was a “6 stroke flash near the White House that hit the same point on the ground” at 6:49pm. He explained that means six individual surges of electricity hit the same point on the ground within half a second.
“This incident underscores the need for people to get to a safe place any time a thunderstorm is in the area,” John Jensenius, a safety specialist with the National Lightning Safety Council, said in an email. “Even a distant rumble of thunder should serve as a warning to get inside a substantial building or hard-topped metal immediately.”
Lightning kills 23 people on average in the United States each year.