Katherine Díaz Hernandez El Salvador surfer killed by freak lightning. Olympic hopeful dies after being struck by lightning while training at El Tunco beach.
An Olympic female surfing hopeful was killed after being struck by lightning while she trained at a beach in El Salvador.
Katherine Diaz Hernandez, 22, was struck by lightning shortly after entering the ocean at El Tunco beach, south of the capital San Salvador, at around 5pm on Friday according to local media.
Emergency services and medics were called to try to save her, but Diaz was pronounced dead at the scene.
Katherine Diaz, who lived close to El Tunco beach, was training for the upcoming ISA World Surf Games in El Salvador, which she hoped would lead to qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, the first Games to include surfing.
The event, which is due to take place in late May, is the last qualifying hurdle for the Olympics.
#Deportes | Último adiós a la surfista salvadoreña que falleció, al ser fulminada por rayo, en playa El Tunco
— Diario La Gaceta (@DiarioLaGaceta) March 21, 2021
The 22-year-old had already competed in international surfing events for El Salvador.
The Salvadoran Surf Federation confirmed the news on social media.
Diaz is the daughter of the Federation’s President Jose Diaz.
Her brother Bamba Diaz paid tribute to her online, writing: ‘Sister we will always carry you in our hearts. God decided to take you now. We already miss you. Love forever.’
President of the Salvadoran Sports Institute Yamil Bukele also released a statement, writing: ‘I just found out about the death of Salvadoran surfer Katherine Díaz.
‘I am very sorry for this death and I join the pain that overwhelms her family. Our solidarity with ‘el Bamba’ and the surf family. Peace for your soul.’
A funeral for the 22-year-old was held on Sunday, where her surfboard, trophies, medal and flowers were arranged around her coffin.
‘We will never forget you.’
The International Surfing Association also released a statement on social media, saying: ‘It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz.
‘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 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.’
This is not the first fatal accident involving surfers and lightning.
Surfers at risk of lightning
In March 2019, Luzimara Souza, a talented 23-year-old Brazilian surfer, died after lightning struck the water in Fortaleza, Brazil.
Surfers are one of the groups at risk of getting struck by lightning.
Therefore, they should monitor specific wind, rain, and cloud patterns before getting into the ocean.
People, in general, should stay indoors – or leave the water immediately – during a thunderstorm, and every time the flash-to-bang count is shorter than 30 seconds.
In the United States, every year, lightning kills an average of 49 people and hundreds more are injured. Some survivors suffer lifelong neurological damage.