Katherine Diaz, a top El Salvadoran surfer who was competing to make the Olympic team, died Saturday after being struck by lightning on a beach, her uncle said. She was 22.
Beto Diaz told El Salvadoran media he was with his niece when she was going out to practice at the beach. Diaz met a friend who was going out to catch some waves at the same time. He said as they were talking, his niece was struck by lightning and the friend was thrown backward.
“She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly,” Beto Diaz said.
The International Surfing Association (ISA) released a statement on Diaz’s tragic death.
“It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz,” the organization wrote on social media.
“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 international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship.
“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.
“We will never forget you.”
Diaz was expected to take part in the ISA World Surf Games in May as a precursor to the Tokyo Olympics, which is having a surfing event for the first time in the Games’ history.