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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A Texas A&M freshman lineman and an incoming member of the Utah football team have died in a rollover crash in New Mexico, officials said today.
Polo Manukainiu, a redshirt freshman at Texas A&M, and Gaius Vaenuku were among three teens killed in the crash, Texas A&M said in a statement.
The wreck occurred Monday on U.S. 550 just north of Cuba.
State Police said in a report that Manukainiu, 19, and Vaenuku were passengers in a 2002 Toyota Sequoia traveling southbound on the highway, according to the school’s statement. The vehicle drifted off of the road, the driver overcorrected, and the vehicle rolled several times.
Manukainiu and another passenger, Andrew Uhatafe, were ejected and died at the scene, the statement said. Vaenuku was transported from the scene but was pronounced dead in an ambulance.
The driver and a fifth passenger were transported to a hospital with minor injuries. Officials said alcohol wasn’t involved and it appeared the driver was the only one wearing a seatbelt, authorities said.
“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, 19, played football at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas and was part of the Aggies’ 2012 signing class.
He was a recreation, parks and tourism science major, the school said. He is survived by his mother, Lima Uhatafe of Euless, Texas.
Texas A&M finished last season ranked No. 5 after an 11-2 season, their first in the Southeastern Conference. They were led by quarterback Johnny Manziel, who became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and are expected to be highly ranked again this year.