The dangers of surfing are often associated with the ocean but in a tragic turn a young and talented El Salvadoran surfer was killed by lightning. Katherine Díaz Hernández was training at El Tunco beach on Friday when she was seen get struck by lightning by people on shore, the Associated Press reported. The 22-year-old was brought ashore but she could not be resuscitated. She was reportedly training for the Tokyo Summer Olympics and the storm was unexpected as it had been a sunny day.
“Upon reaching the beach, Katherine met a German friend, who was also going surfing at the time,” her uncle and surfing coach Beto Díaz told local outlet, Cancha. “Katherine approached to hug her, as soon as she finished hugging her, the noise was heard. She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightning strike too, the board threw me. Katherine passed away instantly.”
According to the Olympic Channel, she was preparing for the ISA World Surf Games in El Salvador set to take place from May 29 to June 6 at La Bocana and El Sunzal beaches. The event serves as a qualifier for this year’s Summer Games, where surfing will make its Olympic debut.
Díaz started surfing at the age of 9, and was also well known in El Tunco for her skills as a chef with PEOPLE reporting she had opened her own restaurant.
A funeral for Díaz was held over the weekend and images available on Facebook show her coffin was surrounded by flowers and photos of her surfing along with her surf board and trophies.
Her mother Rosa Amelia Hernández told ElSalvador.com that although her daughter wanted to be cremated, they buried her across the ocean where she died so that she’d always be close to the water.
She was honored by The Salvadoran Surf Federation: “A great athlete who has represented our country has left us,” it read. “See you soon, great warrior. El Salvador is in mourning.” On March 23, surfers in El Salvador held a “paddle out” to remember her at La Bocana.
The International Surf Association posted on Instagram a tribute to the young surfer:
“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,” they wrote. “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.”