LCHS Grad Known as ‘Brilliant Student’ Dies in Plane Crash

Colin Um
Photo courtesy Bo Yang
La Cañada High School graduate Colin Um (center) is shown enjoying a UC Berkeley laboratory’s picnic in August 2017 at the Berkeley Rose Garden.

A La Cañada High School graduate was killed when the plane he was piloting crashed in the California Delta near Antioch recently.
Colin Um, 22, of Berkeley was the only person in the plane when it crashed on June 9, said Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Lee. The victim, a student at UC Berkeley, died of blunt force injuries, Lee added.
LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal said Um graduated from the school in 2016.
“Colin was a brilliant student and remarkably kind person who particularly loved and excelled at mathematics and science,” Cartnal said in an email. “I remember him well and was deeply saddened to hear of his passing.”
According to an LCHS senior awards booklet from 2016, Um earned honors in numerous categories, including outstanding achievement in Advanced Placement scholarship (based on 2015 AP data), and was a National Merit Scholarship finalist. He was recognized as an outstanding student in AP biology, AP chemistry, AP physics and AP government/economics and received awards in speech and debate and world language.
Bo Yang, who mentored Um at Berkeley for the past two years and earned a doctorate this year in mechanical engineering, described the student as friendly and having a strong work ethic. Um was among the top students he has known, Yang added.
“He always smiled,” Yang said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “He really liked all the courses and did a good job in all them. He’s a wonderful guy, I think. His main major was mechanical engineering and I think he also got interested in chemical engineering.”
He said he last saw Um in May.
“I got the tragic news from email,” Yang said. “It was two days after the accident.” He added he spoke with Um’s family for the first time after learning about the crash and tried to comfort them.
A boater notified the Sheriff’s Office about the crash at 5:32 p.m. June 9, according to a news release. Agencies including the sheriff’s Marine Patrol Unit, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, Pittsburg Police Department, Solano County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Coast Guard and California Highway Patrol responded.
Debris and a backpack were found at the location. The plane is believed to have taken off from the Buchanan Field Airport in Concord around 5 p.m.
Multiple witnesses saw the airplane, a Piper PA-28-151, maneuvering at low altitude when it struck the Broad Slough portion of the San Joaquin River, according to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report. On June 10, a dive team recovered Um’s body from the wreckage, which was in about 20 feet of water and 1,600 feet from the shoreline.
No flight plan was filed, according to an NTSB preliminary report. The plane was registered to Monka Aviation and operated by Um as part of a personal flight, the report said.
Keith Holloway, an NTSB spokesman, said on Monday the investigation continues.
“A lot of information is still being reviewed,” said Holloway, adding the agency is still trying to talk to crash witnesses. An investigation can last 12-18 months, he added.

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