Jason Howerton theblaze.com
Texas A&M said Tuesday that redshirt freshman Polo Manukainiu and a friend who was joining the Utah football team this fall were among three people killed in a single-car rollover crash in the high desert of northern New Mexico, stunning both schools just days before fall practices begin.
Manukainiu, a 19-year-old defensive lineman for the Aggies, and 18-year-old Utah recruit Gaius “Keio” Vaenuku were killed, officials from both schools said.
On Monday, hours before the accident, he tweeted: “22 hour drive back to Texas on no sleep. Oh my.”
The wreck happened Monday evening on U.S. 550 near Cuba, N.M., about 85 miles north of Albuquerque, as the group of five was returning from Salt Lake City to suburban Dallas, where three of them had ties to prep football power Trinity High School in Euless.
The southbound 2002 Toyota Sequoia drifted off the sagebrush-lined highway, New Mexico State Police spokesman Emmanuel T. Gutierrez said. The driver, 18-year-old Siaosi Salesi Uhatafe Jr. of Euless, over-corrected, causing the vehicle to lose control and roll several times.
Alcohol wasn’t involved and it appeared the driver was the only one wearing a seatbelt, investigators said.
Manukainiu and 13-year-old passenger Andrew “Lolo” Uhatafe died at the scene after they were ejected from the vehicle, Gutierrez said. Vaenuku was pronounced dead in an ambulance that responded to the accident.
The driver and his father, Salesi Uhatafe, were taken to the San Juan Medical Center in Farmington, N.M., and suffered only minor injuries, authorities said. Siaosi Uhatafe was a stepbrother of Manukainiu and, like Vaenuku, also is a Utah recruit.
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