Texas A&M football player dies in car accident

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by REBEKAH HOOD / KVUE.com

kvue.com

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 30 at 12:52 PM

Texas A&M University redshirt defensive lineman Polo Manukainiu, 19, died Monday night in a car accident in New Mexico during a trip home from Utah.

According Texas A&M, he was killed in a one-vehicle rollover accident on U.S. Highway 550 in Sandoval County in New Mexico.

Among those who also died in the single-vehicle crash were 14-year-old Andrew "Lolo" Uhatafe and 18-year-old Gaius Vaenuku. Salesi Uhatafe was injured in the crash.

One of Manukainiu's last tweets may shed some light on what happened. "22 hour drive back to Texas on no sleep. Oh my," he tweeted.

A statement released by Texas A&M reports Manukainiu "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 was from Euless, Texas. According to KVUE's sister station WFAA, he graduated from Trinity High School in 2012.

The high school released a statement Tuesday, which said in part:

As we mourn the loss of three members of our Trinity family, we invite you to use this page as a place to share thoughts about Gaius Vaenuku (THS Class of 2013), Polo Manukainiu (THS Class of 2012), and Lolo Uhatafe (Euless Junior High student), along with support for Salesi Uhatafe (THS Class of 2013).

Aggies, sports fans, and even teammates are now sharing their sadness over Manukainiu's death.

“We lost a terrific young man,” Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin said. “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.”

Teammate and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel tweeted Tuesday morning, "Heart hurts waking up to news about Polo..I think I speak for everyone on our team when I say we love you brother you will be missed."

The Texas A&M football staff sent this message out on their Twitter feed, "Very saddened this morning by the passing of @manukainiupolo. What a great kid! Praying for his family. #RIPPolo."

Texas A&M says Manukainiu was a recreation, parks and tourism science major. He is survived by his mother, Lima Uhatafe of Euless.

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