Katherine Diaz, a surfer from El Salvador who had been training to compete for the Olympics, was struck and killed by lightning after entering the water to train on Friday Mar. 19.
22-year-old Diaz was training for May’s ISA World Surf Games in El Salvador at El Tunico Beach, 10 miles south from San Salvador, when the incident occurred. Diaz had been training with a friend who survived the strike.
“Katherine got close to hug her friend, and as soon as she hugged her, you heard the lightning,” Diaz’s coach and uncle Beto Díaz, who witnessed the incident, told local media. “Her friend went flying because of the force of the lightning ray and it knocked down my surfing board. Katherine died instantly.”
“It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz,” the International Surfing Association said in a statement. “Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport.”
Surfing will be included in Olympics for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics, and Diaz had competed in several international surfing events in the hopes of debuting at the Tokyo Olympics.