A Janesville couple died Thursday night while traveling to the capital to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary. Lightning strikes at Lafayette Park across from the White HouseDistrict of Columbia officials and family members said on Friday.
The victims were identified as James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75. Two of his other unidentified people were also seriously injured in the incident.They are still in danger, he said, a spokesman for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. told USA TODAY.
“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of life due to the lightning strike at Lafayette Park,” White House spokeswoman Carine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. said in a statement“Our hearts go out to the families who lost loved ones and pray for those still fighting for their lives.”
Lightning struck just before 7 p.m. ET in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Two men and her two women were taken to hospital, all with “life-threatening serious injuries.” DC Fire and his EMS said in a tweet.
Spokesperson Vito Maggiolo said the lightning strike was witnessed by members of the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Park Police, who responded immediately to the scene.
The Muellers were celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary in Washington, said Michelle McNett, the couple’s niece.
“They were high school sweethearts,” McNett said. “They had a full itinerary[in Washington]. They were supposed to be at Mount Vernon[George Washington’s mansion]today.”
McNett said Muellers has retired.
Jim Mueller owned a drywall business. “He was still working here and there, but he was basically retired,” he said.
Donna was a retired teacher who worked part-time at a furniture store in Janesville, McNett said.
Both are from Cuba City in southwestern Wisconsin near the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois.
McNett said the Muellers are part of a close-knit family.
Five children, ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
“Donna loved family gatherings,” said McNett. “They threw an engagement party a few weeks ago for one of their sons who are getting married (next year).
“Both would do anything for their family and friends,” McNett added. “Jim will give you a shirt from your back.”
The couple loved to travel. “They loved seeing their families,” said McNett.
McNett also remembered Muellers as a great dancer. “At the wedding reception, they came out[on the dance floor]and were like, ‘Wow,'” she said.
McNett said the family was shocked by the couple’s sudden death.
“You don’t even know what to say,” she said.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Lightning was caused by a severe thunderstorm
Washington, DC and the surrounding area were under severe thunderstorm warnings Thursday evening when lightning struck the park. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Lightning strikes killed 11 people in the United States last year, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
Lafayette Park is a seven-acre park originally known as President’s Park. This land was used as the construction site for the White House in 1800.
The park is a frequent site for political rallies and protests.
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This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Lightning strike near White House kills Wisconsin couple in Washington