EULESS (CBSDFW.COM) – A car accident in New Mexico on Monday evening killed several young members of one Euless community. In all, the single-car crash left three people dead and two others injured.
Among those who died was Polo Manukainiu, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman for the Texas A&M Aggies, his little brother Andrew Lolo Uhatafe, a 13-year-old junior high school student, and Gaius Vaenuku, a redshirt freshman defensive tackle for the Utah Utes.
The incident happened shortly before 8:00 p.m. Monday night along U.S. Highway 550 in Sandoval County, New Mexico. According to the police report, a 2002 Toyota Sequoia carrying five people was traveling southbound along the highway. The vehicle began drifting off of the road, the driver overcorrected and the car rolled over several times.
Manukainiu, 19, and Lolo Uhatafe, both passengers in the vehicle, were ejected from the car and pronounced dead at the scene.
Lolo Uhatafe was a current student at Euless Junior High School. Prior to joining Texas A&M, Manukainiu was an all-district defensive end at Trinity High School in Euless, leading the team to an undefeated regular season and into the state playoffs in 2011.
“We lost a terrific young man,” said Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin. “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.”
Crash victim Gaius Vaenuku graduated from Trinity High School earlier this year and was an incoming member of the University of Utah football team. He was trapped in the wrecked vehicle and also died at the scene. “Everyone who knew Gaius is heartbroken today,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “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.”
Vaenuku had been named Defensive Player of the Year at Trinity High School in 2012. He leaves behind his mother, father and four siblings.
Manukainiu’s 18-year-old brother, Salesi Uhatafe Jr., was driving when the crash happened. The boy’s father, Salesi Uhatafe Sr., was also in the car. Both Uhatafe Sr., 50, and Uhatafe Jr. had only minor injuries. Uhatafe Jr. was also a redshirt football player at The University of Utah.
CBS 11 sources say Manukainiu, his father and younger brothers drove to Utah to pick up Uhatafe Jr. and Gaius Vaenuku.
Police said the 18-year-old driver appeared to be the only individual who was wearing a seat belt. Alcohol was not suspected in the crash.
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