EULESS (CBSDFW.COM) – Hundreds of students attended an emotional memorial to remember the lives of three Euless teens killed in an Monday evening one-car crash. A total of five people were traveling in the SUV, which drifted off the roadway and rolled several times in New Mexico. The group was driving back to the DFW area from Utah.
All the teens were North Texas football stars with bright futures – 19-year-old Texas A&M defensive lineman, Polo Manukainiu, his 13-year-old brother, Lolo Uhatafe, and a close friend and 18-year-old incoming University of Utah defensive tackle Gaius Vaenuku. Polo’s brother, Salesi Uhatafe Jr., 18, was also a football player at the University of Utah. He was the driver at the time of the crash, and the only one wearing a seatbelt. He and his father, Salesi Uhatafe, 50, were the only survivors.
Many classmates and friends of the teens learned about the deaths overnight or early Tuesday morning through social media and within hours organized a memorial service at Trinity High School, where three of the boys, Polo, Gaius, and Salesi played football. Former teammates held each other and sang, “Lean on me,” a song they said had a special meaning for them.
T-shirts were sold to raise money for the families, and even after several sizes were sold out, people continued to make donations.
Sarahi Arrezondo grew up down the street from Polo and his brother Lolo and remembered his advice when she couldn’t go out one day at the beginning of the summer.
“He told me there’s always more to come… and now that he’s gone….there isn’t more, there really isn’t,” Arrezondo said.
Incoming Trinity High student Caleb Richardson said of Polo, “He was one of my biggest inspirations. I’ve watched him since I was little.”
Polo and Lolo’s mother could barely speak through the grief of losing two sons.
“My life is not going to be the same,” said Tulima Uhatafe through her tears. “It’s not going to be the same. He’s just a good boy and his brother too.”
Tulima says Polo would tell her he hoped to make things different for their family.
“I know he would do anything for me. He always said, ‘I’m doing it for you Mom. I’m not going to let you down.’ I always told him “Don’t do it for me, follow your heart.’”
Family members of the third victim, Gaeus, also attended the memorial, but did not talk to reporters. None of them realized he was coming home for a surprise visit until they got the phone call that he had died.
By Tuesday evening, there were dozens of comments from students, staff, and teachers. Mary Long wrote, “I am heartbroken at the loss of these boys. I was a lunch lady for Polo and Gaius and enjoyed seeing these two everyday at breakfast and lunch. These two were very special young men and always so kind to me and always had a big hug for me and sometime a loving punch from Polo. I will never forget these young men. Sending love and prayers for their families and also prayers for the Trinity family. This is such a difficult day.”
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