How Did Jackson James Rice Die? Olympic Star Dies Tragically Aged 18 in Diving Accident Weeks Before Paris Games

His body was found beneath the boat at 12:15 pm, and subsequent attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.

Jackson James Rice tragically died in a diving accident just weeks before his scheduled participation in the Paris Olympics. The 18-year-old was poised to make history as the first Caucasian to represent Tonga at an Olympic Games, having qualified for the new kite-foiling event.

Rice died in Faleloa, Tonga on Saturday, reportedly from a "suspected shallow water blackout." His father, Darren Rice, confirmed the heartbreaking news of his son's death to the Matangi Tonga newspaper. According to Matangi Tonga, Rice was free diving from a boat when he tragically suffered a suspected shallow water blackout. Tributes have been pouring in from the moment news of Rice's death was made public.

Gone too Soon

Jackson James Rice
Jackson James Rice Facebook

His body was found beneath the boat at 12:15 pm, and subsequent attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful, as confirmed by his father Darren to the Matangi Tonga newspaper. In a Facebook post, his heartbroken sister Lily said: "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."

Tributes poured in on social media, with one friend writing: "I can't begin to put into words what I'm feeling right now. I still cannot believe it, when I woke up to this news I thought you were playing around.

"You're the most amazing friend anyone could ask for and anyone who has spent time with you would agree."

Chosen for Olympics but Dreams of Thousands Remain Unfulfilled

Jackson James Rice
Jackson James Rice Instagram

His father Darren recalled how Rice, at the age of 15, had risked his life to save many others. In 2021, a ferryboat carrying 18 people capsized in heavy seas off Faleloa, and Rice was involved in the rescue efforts.

On another occasion, the talented sportsman swam out to rescue two girls who had been swept off a sandbar, bravely pulling them back to safety.

Rice was born in the United States to British-born parents but grew up in Ha'apai, where his parents operate a tourist lodge. He secured his Olympic qualification by finishing eighth at the Sail Sydney event in December. Kitefoiling will make its Olympic debut in Paris.

lately, Rice had been training and competing in Europe.