KHOU Reports Aggie Player’s Death in Auto Accident
KHOU News in Houston reported the November 2013 death of Polo Manukainiu, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman football player for the Texas A & M Aggies. Manukainiu died in a single-car rollover crash along with his cousins Gaius “Keio” Vaenuku, who had been recruited to play football at the University of Utah, and 13-year-old Andrew “Lolo” Uhatafe.
The three young cousins were driving with two friends about 85 miles north of Albuquerque on their way from Salt Lake City to the Dallas area. Hours before the accident, Manukainiu tweeted: “22 hour drive back to Texas on no sleep. Oh my.” The 2002 Toyota Sequoia drifted off highway for some reason, possibly due to sleepiness or distraction on the part of the driver, Siaosi Salesi Uhatafe Jr., 18, of Euless, TX. According to NM police, the driver apparently over-corrected in an effort to get the vehicle back in its lane. The vehicle lost control and rolled multiple times. New Mexico police said that they do not believe that alcohol was not involved and that the driver was the only one wearing a seatbelt.
Manukainiu and Andrew Uhatafe were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. Vaenuku was pronounced dead in an ambulance that responded to the scene. The driver and his father, Salesi Uhatafe Sr., suffered minor injuries, authorities said. Siaosi Uhatafe was a stepbrother of Manukainiu and is also is a Utah football recruit.
The loss of Polo Manukainiu and the other victims hit the close-knit Polynesian community of Euless very hard. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is quoted, “We lost a terrific young man. 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.”
This sad tale may serve as a reminder that everyone traveling in a vehicle should ALWAYS wear a seatbelt, and that driving while tired can prove deadly.