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Kite Foil Racer Dead At 18 In Tragic Accident Just Weeks Before Olympic Debut

Kite Foil Racer Dead At 18 Just Weeks Before Olympic Debut

A US-born athlete set to represent Tonga in the Olympics has died… just weeks before his debut.

Jackson James “JJ” Rice‘s shocking accidental death confirmed by his father Darren Rice on Saturday. According to Matangi Tonga Online, the 18-year-old was free diving from a boat near his home in Faleloa, Ha’apai when a suspected “shallow water blackout” — a lack of oxygen — caused him to lose consciousness. Around 12:15 p.m. his body was found on the ocean floor underneath the boat. Sadly, all attempts to save him failed, and he passed away. So tragic.

Related: Deadliest Catch Star Dead After ‘Medical Emergency’ At Alaska Boatyard

The teen was born in the United States to British parents, but grew up in Tonga and represented the nation in international Kite Foiling events for several years. Kite Foiling is similar to kite surfing, but competitors use foil boards so they appear to levitate above water and can perform various twists, turns, and acrobatic tricks. See footage of the rising sport for yourself (below):

JJ had reportedly been competing in the sport since he was at least 13 years old, and he was finally going to get to take his passion to the world stage. His sister Lily Rice took to Facebook to remember her brother, writing a poignant post in his memory on Sunday:

“I was blessed with the most amazing brother in the whole world and it pains me to say that he’s passed away … he was an amazing kitefoiler and he would have made it to the Olympics and come out with a big shiny medal … he made so many amazing friends all over the world.”

Meanwhile, his dad remembers him as not only a talented athlete, but a hero. He told the story of how back in 2015, his son risked his life to help save the lives of two girls after a ferryboat capsized on the water. He was able to swim out to them and get them to safety. Such a strong swimmer… this really can happen to anyone… It puts us in mind of when Naya Rivera drowned — sometimes even good swimmers can become overwhelmed when there’s no one around to help…

So far, no arrangements have been made for JJ, but his family, friends, and fans all over the world are mourning the indescribable loss. He was far too young. May he rest in peace.

[Image via JJ Rice/Instagram]

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Jun 17, 2024 17:10pm PDT