FRESNO, Calif. - A promising high school student, taken too soon.
Neng Thao, 18, drowned hours after attending his older brother's college graduation at Fresno State.
Thao was swept away in the San Joaquin River. It happened around 4 p.m., Saturday, near Palm and Nees access point.
We first spoke to Neng's brother, Touyee Thao, Saturday morning at Fresno State's graduation ceremony were he received the college's highest honor. Touyee said Neng was all smiles.
But Touyee says what was supposed to be a day of celebrating, turned into a day of heartbreak and sadness.
A mother's heartbreaking cry over losing her youngest son.
"I love my son," said Chong Vang, Neng's mother.
Neng's family said he was happy and cheering at the ceremony.
"When I got the president, the university's medalist, I know my brother was super proud," said Touyee Thao, Neng's older brother.
Touyee said after the ceremony his whole family went home to eat lunch and prepare for a barbecue later on that evening. Touyee said there was tune to spare in-between the celebration and that's when Neng and his cousins wanted to go for a swim.
"I can't even believe that it happened," said Touyee.
Neng, A top academic scholar at Edison High School, with a promising future his family says, was swept away in the San Joaquin River's fast current and drowned.
"My son was a very good son," said Cher yia Theng Thao, Neng's father.
"My accomplishments through college is nothing compare to what he had accomplished in high school," said Touyee.
Neng was set to graduate with honors and as senior class valedictorian, in two weeks.
"He had so many awards waiting for him at the ceremony and now we won't get to see him at his graduation," said Touyee.
Neng was a part of several organizations, even worked with Mayor Lee Brand as part of the City's Youth Commission, where he was a Mayoral Appointee. Touyee said Neng was excited for the future.
"He was very promising, a leader in the community and a potential leader in the future," said Touyee.
The family is setting up funeral arrangements at the moment. They have a GOFUNDME account set up, if you would like to donate to help.