Texas A&M redshirt freshman and Utah recruit among those killed in car crash
Texas A&M redshirt freshman Polo Manukainiu and Utah freshman-t0-be Gaius Vaenuku were killed in a single-car accident in northern New Mexico, Monday night.
As ESPN notes, according to New Mexico State police, the accident occurred when the driver - Utah freshman offensive tackle Salesi Uhatafe – overcorrected and the car rolled over several times. Andrew Uhatafe, 13, was also killed in the accident when he and Manukainiu were ejected from the vehicle. They were not wearing seat belts and both died at the scene. Vaenuku was rushed to the hospital but died in the ambulance. Salesi Uhatafe survived, along with his father Salesi Sr.
According to USA Today, Manukainiu and Vaenuku – both defensive linemen – were high school teammates at Trinity High in Euless, Texas. Salesi Uhatafe is Manukainiu’s stepbrother and Andrew Uhatafe’s brother.
“Everyone who knew Gaius is heartbroken today,” Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday. “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. This is a sad day not only for University of Utah football, but for everyone whose lives Gaius crossed or would have crossed but for this tragedy. Our hearts go out to Gaius’ and Salesi’s families, and to the Texas A&M coaches and players. We are praying for the speedy recovery of Salesi and his father.”
“We lost a terrific young man,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said in a statement. “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.”