22-year-old Olympic hopeful dies after being struck by lightning while surfing


People watch the sun set at El Tunco beach in La Libertad, 34 km south of San Salvador, on March 5, 2017. (MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Twenty-two-year-old Katherine Diaz died Friday after being struck by lightning while surfing off a beach in El Salvador.

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The surfer, from El Salvador, was training for an upcoming Olympics qualifying competition at El Tunco Beach, the country’s surfing federation, FESASURF, told CNN.

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Diaz’s sister, Erika, described the Olympic hopeful as “a girl full of energy, with a free spirit that made each day worthwhile,” in an obituary on ElSalvador.com.


“Unfortunately, she left us. She died doing what she liked the most, on her favorite wave,” Erika said.

Diaz had just returned from Mexico to practice for the upcoming competition. She was accompanied Friday by her uncle, Beto Diaz, and a friend.

“Katherine approached to hug [the friend], as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise [of the lightning] was heard…Katherine passed away instantly,” Beto Diaz told ElSalvador.com.

A funeral was held for Diaz Sunday. A surfboard could be seen beside the coffin in photos.

The International Surfing Association 2021 Surf City El Salvador World Surfing Games will be held May 29 to June 6, serving as the final qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where surfing will debut for the first time.

Death by lightning strike is fairly uncommon. According to National Geographic, about 2,000 people are killed by lightning each year.

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