Katherine Diaz, a 22-year-old surfer from El Salvador who was training for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, has passed away after being struck by lightning.
Per local outlet Cancha, the athlete was training last Friday at El Tunco beach when the tragic incident occurred.
Though onlookers attempted to help before the paramedics arrived, Diaz had unfortunately passed.
The International Surfing Association (ISA) later confirmed Diaz’s death, writing on Twitter, “Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport.”
“She excelled at the int’l competition level, representing her country with pride at both the World Surfing Games and ISA World Jr Surfing Championship.”
Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport. She excelled at the int'l competition level, representing her country with pride at both the World Surfing Games and ISA World Jr Surfing Championship. pic.twitter.com/IdzbvisUrv— ISA (@ISAsurfing) March 21, 2021
Beto Diaz, Katherine’s uncle, told Cancha that he was with Katherine in the water when she was killed.
“Upon reaching the beach, Katherine met a German friend, who was also going surfing at the time,” he said. “Katherine approached to hug her. As soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard. She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too; the board threw me. Katherine passed away instantly.”
Diaz’s sister Erika also spoke to Cancha and remembered her as “a girl full of energy, with a free spirit who made each day feel worthwhile.”
“Unfortunately, [she] left us. She died doing what she liked the most, on her favorite wave at the mouth,” Erika said.
Per the Olympic Channel, Diaz was training for the ISA World Surf Games in El Salvador, which serves as a qualifier for this year’s Summer Games.
Reportedly, Diaz worked as a chef and had opened her own restaurant in El Tunco.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Katherine’s family and loved ones for their loss.