SAN MATEO -- Authorities have identified the body that washed ashore Sunday on a San Mateo County beach as Cathy Qiu, 16, of Richmond, a runaway missing since September.
Investigators had been unable to identify her remains, but they got the break they needed from one of the girl's classmates at Albany High School who saw a news report on the case, Coroner Robert Foucrault said. The coroner confirmed Qiu's identity using dental records from her family.
How the girl died remains undetermined, but Foucrault said no indications of foul play have emerged so far. Authorities are running toxicology tests and could have a cause of death in as soon as two weeks.
Qiu's family reported her missing Sept. 27, and she was considered a runaway, Richmond police Lt. Bisa French said. Qiu's parents had previously reported her missing in April, when Colorado authorities located the teen there and sent her home, French said.
Qiu was an honors student at Albany High with a 4.25 GPA and a member of the tennis team, the school district said in a statement Thursday.
"She was well loved," said Sue Ford, Qiu's tennis coach. "She was such an important part of the team. That smiling face, she just loved to compete. She was passionate about tennis--she played hard, and never gave up."
According to Ford, Qiu had also participated in a Coast Guard program over the summer, and was perhaps looking to attend the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. After returning to school in the fall, she returned to the tennis team as one of four seniors on the 18-member roster.
"The day before she disappeared, she said she couldn't come to practice," Ford said. "She seemed very happy. It is a big blow."
The mystery of Qiu's identity unraveled because a classmate saw the description authorities released about the body and suspected it was her. The student passed that suspicion on to a school administrator, who contacted the coroner's office. Investigators then contacted Qiu's parents.
A couple walking about half a mile south of the entrance to San Gregorio beach found Qiu's body around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, police said. The beach is about 11 miles south of Half Moon Bay, just off Highway 1.
The school district, which has been in contact with the family since the day Qiu was reported missing, will have mental health personnel on-site Friday for all Albany High School students and staff.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Contact Erin Ivie at 925-847-2122.