A 39-year-old Spaniard known as the “skateboard hero” for his acts of valour during the 2017 London Bridge attack is on the path to sainthood.
On June 3, 2017, Ignacio Echeverría ran towards terrorists who were wielding 12-inch knives in Borough Market. Earlier they had driven into the crowds in a van.
Skateboarders and friends paying tribute to Ignacio Echeverría in Madrid on 8th June, 2017. Photo NurPhoto SRL / Alamy
While cycling to a skate park to meet friends, Echeverría had observed a man attacking a police officer and subsequently, a woman. Dismounting his bicycle, he grabbed his skateboard, dashing towards the terrorists. He struck one with his skateboard.
This distracted the attacker, thus allowing several members of the public to escape to safety.
Echeverría then saw a second terrorist assailing a policeman. He turned towards him, but was stabbed twice in the back by two other terrorists. He died of his wounds.
Joaquín Echeverría, his father, described Ignacio as “an ordinary person who always stood up for what he believed in”.
Before his death, Echeverría had indicated a desire to fight terrorists.
His father, Joaquin Echeverría told The Tablet: “He came to Madrid after the terror attack at Westminster in March 2017. We were discussing the bravery of the policeman who died after being stabbed [PC Keith Palmer].
“Ignacio said, ‘If I had been skating in Westminster when the attack happened, that policeman would still be alive now.’”
A financial crimes analyst for HSBC in London, Echeverría was posthumously awarded the George Medal by the Queen and Spain’s Order of Civil Merit. Skate parks in Alicante and Madrid now bear his name while a musical titled Skate Hero chronicles the last 24 hours of his life.
In July 2017, a month after Echeverría’s death, Pope Francis announced a fourth possible way to attain sainthood, Oblatio Vitae, or the offering of one’s life for another.
In an apostolic letter announcing the move, the Pope said: “The heroic offering of life, suggested and sustained by charity, expresses a true, complete and exemplary imitation of Christ.”
This prompted the auxiliary bishop of Madrid, Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, to approach the Echeverría family to inquire whether they would like Ignacio to be considered as a candidate for sainthood.
His father said: “I would like Ignacio’s death to be useful. I trust he is already in heaven but if his death helps other people who ask for his intercession, what he did was worthwhile.”
Sr. Echeverría announced on Twitter that the canonisation process had opened in Madrid. His son held law degrees from the Complutense University in Madrid and the University of the Sorbonne in Paris.
The Spanish website, ReligionenLibertad quoted Echeverría’s brother who said Ignacio had “often risked his job to ensure things were done the right way.”
After his death, the Echeverría family discovered that Ignacio had given catechesis sessions to Spanish-speaking children at his local parish in Poplar, east London.