Olympic surfing hopeful Katherine Diaz was killed by a lightning strike while out on the water during a training session.
The 22-year-old rising star from El Salvador was out surfing at El Tunco beach in preparation for an upcoming qualifying competition for the Tokyo Olympics when she was struck in the water, CNN reported in a piece published Monday.
It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz. pic.twitter.com/7SQCEHPpu3
— ISA (@ISAsurfing) March 21, 2021
The country’s surfing federation (FESASURF) confirmed her death to the outlet. (RELATED: This Video Of A Dog Surfing Might Be The Best Thing You See All Day)
“Katherine was a girl very passionate about sports, she was very motivated and happy for the event that was approaching,” the statement read. “‘The Paddle Out’ — a ceremony in her honor — will be held next Tuesday.”(RELATED: California Governor Recognizes Surfing As The Official State Sport)
— EDH Deportes (@EDH_Deportes) March 22, 2021
Diaz’s uncle, Beto Diaz, told a newspaper in the country that, “Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard,” the outlet reported.
The two were both reportedly in the water when it happened and her friend said she was “thrown by the force of the lightning strike” but “Katherine died instantly.”
“Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport,” a statement on its Facebook read.
“She excelled at the international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship,” it added.
En Ecuador un grupo de surfistas rindieron homenaje a la vida de la joven salvadoreña Katherine Diaz. La noticia de su fallecimiento ha dado la vuelta al mundo del surf. pic.twitter.com/6TS6k22pMI
— TCS Noticias (@tcsnoticias) March 21, 2021
“We send our heartfelt condolences to Katherine’s family, the surfers of El Salvador, and to all those in the international surfing community whose lives she touched,” the statement continued. “We will never forget you.”
A funeral for Katherine was held Sunday.