Three North Texas teens died and two other people were injured in a single-car rollover crash in New Mexico on Monday evening.
The crash killed Gaius "Keio" Vaenuku, 18; Polo Manukainiu, 19; and his brother, Andrew Uhatafe, 13. Siaosi Salesi Uhatafe Jr., 18, and his father, Salesi Uhatafe, were injured, according to the New Mexico Department of Public Safety.
Manukainiu was a redshirt freshman defensive lineman at Texas A&M. Vaenuku and Siaosi Uhatafe were both incoming freshmen at Utah and were members of the Utes football team.
All three of the student-athletes previously played football at Euless' Trinity High School.
"We're all family here," said Falaki Seni Veimau, a 2013 Trinity graduate and teammate. "We all come together as one. It's like losing a brother. Blood doesn't make you related; loyalty does."
According to information from New Mexico state police, the five people were riding in a 2002 Toyota Sequoia that rolled over north of Cuba, N.M., at about 6:50 p.m. Monday.
Authorities said group was traveling south on U.S. Highway 550 and headed back to Texas from Utah when the driver, Saiosi Uhatafe, drifted from the roadway on the passenger side and over-corrected to the right. Police said Saiosi Uhatafe apparently lost control and the vehicle rolled over several times.
According to police, three of the passengers were dead when first responders arrived at the crash scene. Two passengers were ejected from the vehicle and a third remained lodged in the vehicle.
Siaosi Uhatafe and his father both sustained minor injuries in the crash and were hospitalized at San Juan Medical Center in Farmington, N.M., according to New Mexico state police. Their current conditions were not immediately available.
State police said the driver, Siaosi Uhatafe, was the only person in the vehicle who was wearing a seatbelt.
At a vigil Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of parents, friends and players shared stories of the three who lost their lives.
Sam Tevi, a Trinity graduate and current football at Utah, was one of the last to see the them after they visited his dorm room Sunday night.
"They had good hearts, all three of them," he said. "They had the biggest hearts anyone could have. I love those three with all my heart."
Three vigils are scheduled for Wednesday for the teens. First, a vigil will be held at 11 a.m. at Euless Jr. High School. At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, another vigil will be held at Trinity's west campus in Euless. Finally, at 8 p.m., a prayer service will be held at Martin United Methodist Church, located at 2621 Bedford Road in Bedford.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.
Manukainiu Memorialized on Social Media
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel tweeted about the passing of his teammate, Polo Manukainiu, 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
Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin praised Manukainiu in a statement released Tuesday morning.
"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."
TCU coach Gary Patterson also shared a message of support on Twitter.
— Gary Patterson (@TCUCoachP) July 30, 2013
On his own Twitter feed, Polo Manukainiu tweeted that he was headed home from Utah, but had not slept.
22 hour drive back to Texas on no sleep. Oh my ��
— Polo Manukainiu (@ManukainiuPolo) July 29, 2013
New Mexico authorities were still investigating a cause of the crash and did not indicate if sleep was a factor or indicate who was driving. Police said alcohol was not a factor in the crash.
Utah Player Remembered
Vaenuku's aunt lived four houses away from Manukainiu, and family members say the pair were close friends and "like brothers."
The University of Utah football program mourned the loss of Vaenuku and shared messages of support for the families of the victims.
"Everyone who knew Gaius is heartbroken today," football 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. This is a sad day not only for University of Utah football, but for everyone whose lives Gaius crossed or would have crossed but for this tragedy. Our hearts go out to Gaius’ and Salesi’s families, and to the Texas A&M coaches and players. We are praying for the speedy recovery of Salesi and his father."
NBC 5's Eric King contributed to this report.