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California valedictorian drowned in the San Joaquin River for the graduation

Family and friends on Monday were remembering a California high school senior with a promising future drowned Saturday afternoon, just two weeks before his graduation as class valedictorian.

Neng Thao, 18, was swept up in the San Joaquin River in Fresno, hours after attending his older brother’s college graduation. Neng and his cousins had planned to go for a swim between the family events and festivities throughout the day.

Neng was pulled away in the river the swift current, which the officials described as the highest level in years, due to a rainy winter, Fox 26 reported.

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Neng was a top academic scholar, his family said.

“He had so many awards waiting for him at the ceremony,” Neng’s brother, Touyee Thao told KSEE. “And now we will not get to see him on his graduation.”

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Neng was active in various organizations, and worked with Fresno Mayor Lee Brand as mayor of the city appointed by the city of the Youth Commission.

“This is a heartbreaking loss for the entire community,” Brand said in a statement. “Neng, have a positive impact on everyone he met and we are all deeply saddened by the news of this tragic loss.”

“He was very promising,” Touyee said of his brother. “A leader in the community and a potential leader in the future.”

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