Gone too soon. Olympic hopeful Katherine Diaz has sadly passed away after being struck by lightning during training, the International Surfing Association confirmed via Facebook.
"It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador's Katherine Diaz," the statement began. "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.”
The statement continued: “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."
The 22-year-old was in the water Friday, March 19, near her home in El Tunco, El Salvador, when the weather suddenly changed and lightning struck. Emergency personnel were called to the scene but were unable to revive her, according to The Guardian. She was training for the International Surfing Association’s World Surf Games, a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for May in El Salvador.
"Katherine came over to hug her [friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard," Diaz's uncle, Beto, who says he was in the water with the athlete, told a local newspaper in El Salvador. "She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too... Katherine died instantly."
Per AS.com, citing the Salvadoran Surf Federation, "the sky was clear and it was an unforeseen storm that did not seem to carry much electrical intensity either." A funeral for Diaz was held on Sunday.
Besides being a world-renowned athlete, Diaz was also a chef who had opened her own restaurant in El Tunco, El Salvador.