Janesville couple celebrating their wedding anniversary die in a lightning strike near the White House
Donna and Jim Mueller
A Janesville couple, who were celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary with a trip to the nation's capital, were killed Thursday night in a lightning strike in Lafayette Park across from the White House, District of Columbia officials and a family member said Friday.
The victims were identified as James Mueller (76) and Donna Mueller (75).
The Associated Press reported that a third victim, a 29-year-old adult male, was pronounced dead on Friday. The fourth person, a woman, is in critical condition, police said. Their identities were not immediately released.
On Thursday evening, rescue workers moved out in Lafayette Park across from the White House. A Janesville couple was killed by the lightning strike.
"We are saddened by the tragic loss of life following the lightning strike in Lafayette Park," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. "Our hearts are with the families who have lost loved ones and we pray for those who are still fighting for their lives."
Lightning struck just before 7 p.m. Eastern Time in Lafayette Park, which is across from the White House. Two men and two women were taken to hospitals, all with "life-threatening injuries," D.C. said. Fire and EMS in one tweet.
Spokesman Vito Maggiolo said the lightning strike was observed by members of the US Secret Service and US Park Police, who responded immediately to the scene.
A wedding anniversary trip
The Muellers were in Washington to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary, said Michelle McNett, the couple's niece.
"They were high school sweethearts," McNett said. "They had an entire itinerary (in Washington). They were supposed to be at Mount Vernon (George Washington's estate) today."
McNett said the Muellers are retired.
Jim Mueller had owned a drywall business. "He still worked here and there, but he was basically retired," McNett said.
Donna was a retired teacher and worked part-time at a furniture store in Janesville, McNett said.
They were both originally from Cuba City in southwestern Wisconsin near the Mississippi River where the state borders Iowa and Illinois.
McNett said the Muellers are part of a close-knit family.
They have five children, ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
"Donna loved hosting family reunions," McNett said. "They just had an engagement party a few weeks ago for one of their sons who is getting married (next year).
"Both would do anything for family or friends," McNett added. "Jim would give you the shirt off his back."
The couple loved to travel. "They loved seeing their family," McNett said.
McNett also remembered the Muellers as great dancers. "At wedding receptions, they would get out (on the dance floor) and it was like 'wow,'" she said.
McNett said the family was shocked by the couple's sudden deaths.
"You don't even know what to say," she said. "Only prayers."
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Lightning was spawned by heavy thunderstorm
Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas were under a severe thunderstorm warning Thursday night when lightning struck the park, according to the National Weather Service.
According to the weather service, eleven people were killed by lightning in the United States last year.
Lafayette Park is a 7-acre park originally known as President's Park. The land served as a building site for the White House in 1800.
The park is a frequent site for political gatherings and protests.
Contact Steve Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stjmartinez.
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This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Lightning Strikes Near White House Kills Wisconsin Couple in Washington
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