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The Janesville couple, celebrating their wedding anniversary, died after being struck by lightning near the White House.

Donna and Jim Mueller

The Janesville couple, who celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary with a trip to the nation’s capital, died Thursday night after being struck by lightning in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, District of Columbia officials and a family member said on Friday.

The victims were identified as 76-year-old James Mueller and 75-year-old Donna Mueller.

The Associated Press reported that a third victim, a 29-year-old adult male, died Friday. The police department said the condition of the fourth person, a woman, was critical. Their identities were not immediately disclosed.

Emergency crews responded to Lafayette Park, across from the White House, on Thursday night.  A couple from Janesville died after being struck by lightning.

Emergency crews responded to Lafayette Park, across from the White House, on Thursday night. A couple from Janesville died after being struck by lightning.

“We regret the tragic loss of life following the lightning strike in Lafayette Park,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. Said. “Our hearts go out to the families who lost their 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 across from the White House. Two men and two women, all with “critical life-threatening injuries”, were transported to hospitals with DC Fire and EMS. said in a tweet.

Spokesman Vito Maggiolo said the lightning strike was witnessed by members of the US Secret Service and US Park Police, who immediately responded to the scene.

wedding anniversary trip

The couple’s niece, Michelle McNett, said the Mueller family was in Washington to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary.

“They were high school sweethearts,” McNett said. “There was an itinerary (in Washington). They were supposed to be in Mount Vernon (George Washington’s mansion) today.”

McNett said the Muellers are retired.

Jim Mueller owned a drywall business. “He was still working here and there, but basically retired,” McNett said.

McNett said Donna is a retired teacher and works part-time at a furniture store in Janesville.

Both were originally from Cuba City in southwestern Wisconsin, near the Mississippi River on the state’s border with Iowa and Illinois.

McNett said the Muellers are part of a close-knit family.

He has five children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Donna loved to have family gatherings,” McNett said. “A few weeks ago they threw an engagement party for one of their sons, who is getting married (next year).

“Both would do anything for family or friends,” McNett added. “Jim would have given you the shirt on your back.”

The couple loved to travel. “They loved seeing their families,” McNett said.

McNett also remembered the Muellers as great dancers. “They used to go out at wedding receptions (on the dance floor) and it was like ‘wow,'” she said.

McNett said the family was in shock with the couple’s sudden death.

“You don’t even know what to say,” he said. “Just prayers.”

Funeral arrangements are awaited.

Lightning caused by severe storm

Washington, DC and the surrounding area were under a severe thunderstorm warning when lightning struck the park Thursday evening. According to the National Weather Service.

According to Meteorology, 11 people died in the United States last year as a result of lightning strikes.

Lafayette Park is a 7-acre park originally known as Presidential Park. The land served as a construction phase site for the White House in 1800.

The park is a frequent site for political meetings and protests.

Contact Steve Martinez at follow him on twitter @stjmartinez.

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This article was originally published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Lightning strike near the White House kills Wisconsin couple in Washington

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