Before they got married, they were best friends in high school. Their daughter-in-law said that they were on vacation in Washington to celebrate their wedding anniversary. She said that they had nothing in common with the other people who were under the tree when the lightning struck.
The couple had five grown children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. They lived in Janesville, Wisconsin, about 70 miles west of Milwaukee. In a statement, their relatives said, “Both would do anything for their family and friends.”
Police said Friday afternoon that the other person who was killed was a 29-year-old man. His name was kept secret until his family could be told.
In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “We are saddened by the tragic loss of life in Lafayette Park after the lightning strike. We feel sad for the people who lost loved ones, and we pray for those who are still fighting for their lives.
Experts say that taking shelter under a tree during a storm is very dangerous because lightning tends to strike tall things. A National Weather Service page about lightning science says that when an electrical charge hits a tree, the sap and moisture in the tree easily carry the electricity to the ground around the tree.
“When lightning hits a tree or another object, a lot of the energy moves away from the strike and into and along the ground surface,” the website says. “This is called “ground current.” Ground current can hurt anyone who is outside near a lightning strike.
A strong thunderstorm hit the District just before 7 p.m. and caused the lightning to go off. Between 6:30 and 7:15 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for most of the Beltway area. The warning said that damaging winds of up to 60 mph and quarter-sized hail were possible.
Chris Vagasky, an analyst for Vaisala, which runs a national lightning detection network, said in a message that there was a “6-stroke flash near the White House that hit the same spot on the ground” at 6:49 p.m. He said that means that six separate surges of electricity hit the same spot on the ground in less than a half second.