3rd victim of DC lightning strike identified as Los Angeles man

·5 min read

A husband and wife from Wisconsin and a 29-year-old man who were struck by lightning Thursday evening while standing in a park across the street from the White House have died from their injuries, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police said. A fourth victim in the same incident remained hospitalized Friday with critical injuries.

The lightning strike hit Lafayette Square, located in the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, during a severe thunderstorm on Thursday. The strike occurred around 6:50 p.m., local time, and the first call to D.C. Fire and EMS was received at 6:52 p.m.

The couple was identified as 76-year-old James Mueller and his wife, Donna Mueller, 75, of Janesville, according to a police spokesperson.

Their family said the couple were celebrating their 56th anniversary while visiting the capital, WISN in Milwaukee reported.

The Muellers, the 29-year-old man and a woman were found unconscious at the scene when first responders arrived. Both the United States Park Police and Secret Service members administered CPR and used defibrillators in an attempt to revive the victims before they were transported to a local hospital.

On Saturday evening, the 29-year-old man was identified as Brooks Lambertson of Los Angeles. Lambertson was on a business trip to Washington D.C. when he was struck. He was a vice president at City National Bank and managed sponsorships for the company, his employer said in a statement.

"Brooks was an incredible young man who will be remembered for his generosity, kindness and unwavering positivity. His sudden loss is devastating for all who knew him, and his family, friends and colleagues appreciate the thoughts and prayers that have poured in," read the statement.

"I saw at least four people lying on the ground," one witness told ABC News. "And medics were giving them artificial respiration, literally jumping on their hearts," the woman said, describing the harrowing situation.

The fourth victim was identified as 28-year-old Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, of Washington, D.C., and a native of Newbury Park, California, according to the Ventura County (California) Star. She was in stable condition in a Washington-area hospital after being revived on-site by a defibrillator used by the Secret Service, her mother told the paper.

The four victims were standing near an Andrew Jackson statue, "a little bit left of the statue, as you're looking towards the White House," said Vitto Maggiolo of D.C. Fire and EMS, according to ABC News, when the thunderstorm moved through the area. According to reports, the victims were also standing near a tree.

A lightning strike in Lafayette Square across the street from the White House on Thursday, August 4, 2022, was blamed for killing three people and critically injuring another.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the tragedy on Friday morning in a statement posted on Twitter. "We are saddened by the tragic loss of life after the lightning strike in Lafayette Park," Jean-Pierre said. "Our hearts are with the families who lost loved ones, and we are praying for those still fighting for their lives."

According to John Jensenius of the National Lightning Safety Council, the three fatalities bring the nation's total lighting deaths to 12 in 2022, slightly behind the average of 16 lightning-related fatalities through this point of the year. The 12 deaths eclipse the total number of lightning fatalities in the U.S. last year, which was 11, Jensenius said.

The area had been under a severe thunderstorm warning that included Washington, D.C., Arlington, Virginia, and Alexandria, Virginia, which expired at 7:15 p.m. EDT.

"Thunderstorms developed during the evening across the Washington, D.C. area just before 5:30 p.m.," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alyson Hoegg said. "As the storms slowly moved across the area, strong winds with gusts of 50 to 60 mph were observed at Reagan National Airport. In addition to the strong winds, many cloud-to-ground lightning strikes were observed across the area between 6 and 7 p.m. Thursday evening."

Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist, lightning data and safety specialist and member of the National Lightning Safety Council, said on Twitter that a six-stroke lightning flash occurred at 6:49 p.m. EDT.

Each lightning strike contains one or more strokes, depending on how much energy is being transferred from the cloud to the ground. Typically, lightning strikes contain one or two strokes, but especially powerful lighting strikes can contain dozens of strokes. In this case, according to Vagasky, the lightning strike that occurred across the street from the White House contained half a dozen strokes.

"This incident underscores the need for people to get to a safe place any time a thunderstorm is in the area. Even a distant rumble of thunder should serve as a warning to get inside a substantial building or hard-topped metal [vehicle] immediately," Jensenius said.

He added, "The incident also underscores the danger of sheltering under a tree, as images from the scene show victims near a tall tree. Lightning tends to strike the tallest object in the immediate area, which is often a tree."

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