Two people have died and two remain in critical condition after a lightning strike near the White House in downtown Washington DC.
DC Police identified the dead on Friday as Donna and James Mueller, 75 and 76 years old, respectively, both from Wisconsin, The Washington Post reported.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Twitter that “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”.
Fire officials said the two men and two women were found just before 7pm in the centre of the park. Fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said they were found in a grove of trees about 100ft southeast of the statue of Andrew Jackson.
Mr Maggiola said that they are still investigating why the four people were in the park at that time.
“Trees are not safe places,” Mr Maggiolo said. “Anybody that goes to seek shelter under a tree, that’s a very dangerous place to be.”
Mr Maggiolo said officials from the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service and the Park Police were on the scene immediately to help.
A severe thunderstorm hit the DC region around 7pm on Thursday.
The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for much of the Beltway area between 6.30pm and 7.15pm.
The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are less than “one in a million”, according to The New York Times. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, says that nearly 90 per cent of all people struck by lightning survive.
The victims initially received help from the Secret Service and the US Park Police, leading to the initial survival of the individuals, fire officials said, according to The Washington Post.