There is, unfortunately, some tragic news for the Texas A&M and Utah programs today.
Aggies redshirt freshman Polo Manukainiu (pictured) and incoming Utes freshman Gaius Vaenuku were killed in a car accident in New Mexico Monday evening, the schools confirmed in separate statements. They were just 19 and 18 years old, respectively.
“We lost a terrific young man,” Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin said of Manukainiu. “Polo was loved by his teammates and coaches. Anyone who came in contact with him was struck by his sense of humor and smile. My heart aches for his mom and family members.”
“Everyone who knew Gaius is heartbroken today,” said Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham in a release. “He was the kind of young man who lit up a room and his future in football and life had no boundaries. Words cannot express our devastation over the loss of Gaius.”
Another passenger, 13-year-old Lolo Uhatafe, was also killed. Another incoming Utes lineman, Salesi Uhatafe, was injured in the wreck. Salesi’s father also survived. Lolo was Salesi’s brother, Manukainiu his stepbrother.
Here’s a portion of the A&M release that details, at least partially, what happened:
According to the report from the New Mexico State Police, he was a passenger in a 2002 Toyota Sequoia traveling south on U.S. 550 and the vehicle drifted off of the roadway and the driver over corrected and the vehicle rolled several times. Manukainiu and another passenger, Andrew Uhatafe, were ejected from the vehicle and deceased at the scene. Gaius Vaenuku, an incoming member of the Utah football team, was transported from the scene of the accident but was pronounced deceased in the ambulance. The driver and a fifth passenger were transported to San Juan Regional Hospital after sustaining minor injuries. Alcohol was not involved and it appears the driver was the only one wearing a seat belt.
Manukainiu and Vaenuku and Uhatafe played at Euless Trinity High School in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex.
Though the cause of the accident is still under investigation — alcohol is not believed to be involved, but it appears the driver was the only one wearing a seat belt — Manukainiu did tweet the following on Monday: “22 hour drive back to Texas on no sleep. Oh my”
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.
(Picture via Texas A&M)