An international student from Colombia has died after being swept off the rocks at a Sydney beach, just months after her brother died in a motorcycle crash.
Katherine Sandoval, 30, was visiting Cronulla Beach with friends on July 30 when she was swept out into the water about midday.
Her friends tried to reach her, but there was nothing they could do.
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A boat pulled Sandoval aboard and took her to the Botany boat ramp, where she was treated by paramedics.
She died at the scene.
Sandoval is remembered by those who knew her as a kind and generous person. “We fall short of being able to describe the great spirit she had when it came to helping others,” her friend Jhonatan Alejandro Leon wrote on social media.
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She had been a social worker helping marginalised communities while living in Bogota, and had volunteered at a food bank while living in Sydney, Leon said.
Sandoval, who was living in Beverly Hills at the time of her death, had been in Australia for just over five months, arriving in late February to study English, Sandoval’s Sydney-based pastor Ezequiel Medina told 7NEWS.com.au.
“Katherine was a caring and happy young girl,” Medina said. “She had a pure heart and a selfless attitude towards people.
“She was always with the positive attitude and always ready to encourage and cheer you up.
“She was a woman of faith, and this helped her during the tough times after her brother passed away due to a motorcycle accident (three months ago in Bogota).”
Katherine Sandoval, 30, was visiting Cronulla Beach with friends on July 30 when she was swept out into the water. Credit: Instagram/GoFundMe
Sandoval’s parents, after losing their two children within months of each other, are relying on their community for emotional support and donations, Medina said.
“The parents and family are going through the grief and pain, but they have been encouraged by the people’s messages and prayers, and they have felt the love from the Australian/Latin community here,” he told 7NEWS.com.au.
They have also raised money through a GoFundMe organised by Medina, to repatriate their daughter’s body to Colombia.
“They are grateful for the love and kindness they have received and the possibility to be reunited with Katherine’s body thanks to the generosity of the people who raised the money to repatriate Katherine to Colombia,” Medina said.
Funds raised have surpassed the initial goal, but Medina said donations would be left open, and all additionally raised funds would be sent to Sandoval’s family and used to support funeral costs.
‘Shaken’ community shares tributes
Medina said Sandoval’s Spanish church, Iglesia Su Presencia, “is shaken” after losing the valued member of their congregation.
“She impacted the lives of all the people in the church with her encouragement, cheeky personality and resilience during her tough time after losing her brother. She always had a word of faith to lift your spirit. She will definitely be missed,” he said.
The church also shared a post informing the congregation of her death.
“We love you and will always carry you in our hearts,” the church wrote.
Members of the congregation shared tributes for Sandoval in the comments, saying it was a privilege to know her.
“Beautiful, we’re going to miss you, and I’m sure you’re giving God a smile,” one person said.
“Thank you very much for your support for my girl,” another said. “I love you from a distance.”
Another commenter said they would always remember her smile.
“We don’t understand, and our soul hurts (at) your departure,” another church member said. “You’ll always be in our hearts.”
“What a great pain your departure leaves us,” another person said.
“You’re already with your little brother. We will always remember you. We’re going to miss you!”
A service for Katherine will be held at her Sydney church on Saturday evening.
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