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2 dead, 2 in critical condition after lightning strike near White House

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WASHINGTON — Two people have died and two others are in critical condition after a lightning strike across from the White House Thursday night, the Metropolitan Police Department said Friday.

A police department spokesperson identified the deceased as James Mueller, 76, and Donna Mueller, 75, both of Janesville, Wis.

Two other victims remain in critical condition, the spokesperson said.

In a statement Friday morning, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We are saddened by the tragic loss of life following the lightning strike in Lafayette Park. Our hearts are with the families who have lost loved ones, and we pray for those who are still fighting for their lives.”

A spokesperson for the DC Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services, Vito Maggiolo, said Thursday night that agency personnel found the victims with “serious and life-threatening” injuries in Lafayette Square shortly before 7 p.m. ET.

The four individuals – two adult men and two adult women – were transported to hospitals in critical condition, Maggiolo said.

Emergency personnel respond after an apparent lightning strike at Lafayette Square in Washington, DC on Thursday evening.@dcfireems via Twitter

Uniformed Secret Service and U.S. Park Police officers witnessed the lightning strike and began treating victims before firefighters and emergency medical personnel arrived, Maggiolo said.

He added that it was unclear whether the individuals were related.

NBC News has reached out to the White House, the National Park Service and the Secret Service for comment.

Shortly before authorities responded to the incident, the National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning warning that gusts of hail and wind up to 60 mph could hit Washington, DC

Lafayette Square is north of the White House and frequented by tourists and protesters, as well as workers from nearby private and government buildings. The park was the scene of a racial justice protest that was violently cleared by federal law enforcement officers in June 2020.