Texas A&M’s Polo Manukainiu, Utah’s Gaius Vaenuku killed in car accident
By Zac Ellis
Horrible news broke in college football today. Texas A&M redshirt freshman defensive lineman Polo Manukainiu and Utah incoming freshman Gaius Vaenuku were killed in a car accident on Monday evening in New Mexico, the Aggies’ athletic department confirmed on Tuesday.
Manukainiu, Vaenuku and another passenger, Andrew Uhatafe, all died as a result of a one-car rollover accident on U.S. Highway 550 in Sandoval County, N.M. Texas A&M’s release confirmed that the driver and another passenger remain hospitalized:
According to the report from the New Mexico State Police, [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.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin released a statement:
“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.”
Manukainiu was reportedly traveling on a trip from Utah to Texas. His last tweet from Monday night described the long drive ahead of him:
22 hour drive back to Texas on no sleep. Oh my 😳—
Polo Manukainiu (@ManukainiuPolo) July 29, 2013
Manukainiu was a defensive end out of Trinity High in Euless, Texas. He redshirted in 2012 but was expected to make an impact for the Aggies this fall.
Vaenuku was a defensive end out of Trinity who signed with Utah as part of the Utes’ 2013 signing class.
As part of the social media mourning of Manukainiu’s death, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel tweeted in remembrance of his teammate on 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—
Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2) July 30, 2013