Orange County Sheriff's Department

  • Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, was found dead on Wednesday in what police are investigating as a homicide.
  • It's the latest tragedy for the University of Pennsylvania, which recently lost freshman William Steinberg in a deadly plane crash in Costa Rica.
  • Nine UPenn students and faculty have died since the start of 2017.

Students at the University of Pennsylvania woke up to devastating news on Wednesday: Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old sophomore who had been reported missing for a week, had been found dead in a park in California.

The report came after a days-long search mission around the Borrego Park area in Bernstein's hometown of Lake Forest, where he was visiting family over winter break. Police announced they were investigating the death as a homicide.

For the university, it's the latest tragedy in a stretch that has been filled with them. Bernstein is the ninth UPenn student to die since the start of 2017, and the second in just two weeks, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

William Steinberg, an 18-year-old freshman, was one of the 10 American tourists killed in a plane crash in Costa Rica, an incident that made international headlines on Dec. 31.

UPenn's campus has also been plagued by suicides in recent years, bringing the issue of mental health to the forefront of the campus conversation. Fourteen UPenn students or faculty members have died by suicide since February 2013, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian, including the recent suicides of senior Nick Moya and Ricardo Teles, who had recently been named a chairman at UPenn's dentistry school.

Dr. Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, vice provost for university life at the school, addressed the recent tragedies in a statement on Wednesday after news of Bernstein's death emerged.

"I realize these losses have the potential to affect many, many members of our Penn family," she said, according to ABC News.

"The Penn I love and cherish is vibrant, caring, and compassionate," she said. "Hug your friends and roommates. Practice self-care and empathy. Celebrate who and what you have on this special campus. Find unity and strength, together."

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