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UC Berkeley-Bound Valedictorian Drowns in San Joaquin River, Latest River Death After Wet Winter

A high school honor student from Fresno drowned in the San Joaquin River over the weekend, marking the latest fatality in the Central Valley as rivers churn violently as a result of California’s rapidly melting snowpack.

Neng Thao is seen in a photo posted to a GoFundMe page set up for his family in the wake of his death.

On the official Instagram account for the city of Fresno, officials said that Neng Thao drowned in the San Joaquin River on Saturday.

Thao, 18, was the youngest of 10 children and was valedictorian at Edison High School, where he was set to graduate next month, the family wrote on a GoFundMe page for his memorial.

He was accepted into UC Berkeley and wanted to major in political science, his family wrote. He aimed to become a pharmacist and planned to one day run for office.

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We received the sad news last night that Mayor Lee Brand's appointee to the Youth Commission, Neng Thao, drowned in the San Joaquin River yesterday. This picture is from Thursday when he was reappointed. He was an honors student at Edison HS and bound for UC Berkeley. "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.” – Mayor Lee Brand (Neng pictured, 2nd from the right)

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