Phoenix CrossFit coach hailed a hero, died saving wife from rip current in Puerto Rico

Damien Walker was with family on the island to scatter his grandfather’s ashes when the incident occurred. His father also died trying to save him.

PHOENIX — Damien Walker was a husband, a son, and a friend.

The 33-year-old was lovingly known as a coach at Wildfire CrossFit in Phoenix, having worked there for almost a decade.

“He had this way of believing in you,” said gym owner Tiffany Divelbiss. “You just knew you were going to laugh and be entertained if you got Damien as your coach.”

Damien was known for his love for the sport. He enjoyed lifting and competing with others, but it was his goofiness and his way of making people laugh that many admired, Divelbiss said.

“He always joked about his athleticism, but the cool thing was he always backed it up,” said Skip Divelbiss. “The energy that he brought to every single thing he did was incredible.”

To them, coach Damien was family. The closest thing they had to a kid, they said.

The Divelbiss met Damien when he was 22 years old. They watched him become a coach, then get married. On March 11, they laid him to rest.

“For this strong, amazing human to be taken away so tragic, it’s just so beyond words,” Tiffany Divelbiss said.

Remembering a hero

On March 3, Damien died while he saved his wife’s life from a rip current on Caracoles Beach in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

He had traveled to the island with his family to spread the ashes of his paternal grandfather, who had passed away a year prior that same day.

Damien’s father, Luis Walker, also lost his life that day.

He attempted to save his son from the same rip current, but the water was too strong. The father’s body was never recovered.

“He died being a hero,” Tiffany Divelbiss said. “We just want to honor him and carry out his legacy.”

The gym created a hero workout to honor coach Damien. It is based on a set of “tough” workouts, which were his favorite.

Damien is remembered as a man who loved lifting, animals, anime, and having a good time.

“One of our members said it actually perfect. He left this life exactly how he lived it,” Tiffany Divelbiss said. “And that was putting others 100% before him.”

Coach Damien leaves behind a legacy to be yourself. Their favorite quote of his was, “I’m the only me! Be yourself! Strong, funny, honest.”

“That meant just to be 100% you, 100% of the time, no matter what. That is now his legacy is just going to live on,” Tiffany Divelbiss said.

On Sunday, April 2, what would have been Damien’s 34th birthday, his gym family is hosting an event to celebrate his life. 

The public is invited to attend. Details are still being finalized. Those interested can check here or email: 

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