High School Valedictorian Drowns Just Before Graduation in California

Family and friends are mourning the death of Neng Thao, a high school senior in California who drowned on Saturday. He was about to graduate as class valedictorian in two weeks.

The unfortunate incident occurred just hours after Neng attended his brother’s graduation, who was also a top honor awardee. According to the New York Post, he and his cousins decided to go for a swim at the San Joaquin River in between the day’s celebrations.

Nearly two dozen people were sent to look after Neng, Fox 26 reported. It was 6:15 in the evening when he was finally found.

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Deputy Chief Todd Tuggle of the Fresno Fire Department described San Joaquin, “This river is very, very dangerous. This is a unique year. We haven’t seen anything like this in 20 years. So it’s instrumental we’ve been out on the river, we know what the water looks like, we know what the water levels look like, we know what the hazards look like.”

After the tragic event, Neng’s family set up a crowdfunding page where they shared more details about the high school senior who was set to graduate on June 5.

According to the post, Neng, 18, was the youngest of 10 children. He was graduating with a 4.3 GPA and high honors.

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Neng, who also worked beside the mayor of Fresno as a member of Life California Honor, was accepted to the University of California, Berkeley. He planned to major in Political Science.

Following the news, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand expressed his sympathies in a statement:

“This is a heartbreaking loss for our entire community, and on behalf of the City of Fresno, I’d like to express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Neng Thao. He was an exceptional young man and a valued leader on the City’s Youth Commission, where he was a Mayoral appointee. Neng made a positive impact on everyone he met and and we are all deeply saddened by the news of this tragic loss.”

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You can donate to help Neng’s family here.

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