Polo Manukainiu (image via Texas A&M)
Andrew ''Lolo'' Uhatafe, a 13-year-old cousin, was also killed in the crash. The teens were driving back from Utah when their car rolled over on US 550 outside Cuba, New Mexico. Manukainiu and Vaenuku played for Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, and were going to be competing for spots on their teams' respective defensive lines.
According to the New Mexico state police, the 2002 Toyota Sequoia started drifting off the highway and the driver overcompensated, causing the vehicle to roll several times. Alcohol was not involved, but only the yet-to-be-identified driver was wearing a seatbelt.
''We lost a terrific young man,'' Texas A&M 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.''
"Everyone who knew Gaius is heartbroken today,'' Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. ''He was the kind of young man who lit up a room and his future in football and life had no boundaries. Words cannot express our devastation over the loss of Gaius.''
''They were students with bright smiles that everybody knew and everybody loved,'' said Trinity principal Mike Harris.
A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel spoke for his team in a tweet 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
We’ll update this post as we learn more. Our condolences go out to the families and friends of the young men.
Update (noon ET): Utah has confirmed that Vaenuku died in the crash and that offensive lineman Salesi Uhatafe survived the accident but is in critical condition.
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