In a heartbreaking accident Monday night in New Mexico, two young, promising college football players were killed. Polo Manukainiu, 19, a freshman defensive lineman for Texas A&M, and Gaius "Keio" Vaenuku, 18, an incoming player for Utah, were killed when the vehicle they were riding in rolled over. Also killed was a 13-year-old passenger, Andrew Uhatafe, Manukainu's stepbrother.
According to CBS, Manukainiu and Vaenuku were high school teammates. They were driving back to Texas from Utah when the driver, 18-year-old Siaosi Salesi Uhatafe Jr., drifted off the road about 85 miles north of Albuquerque. He overcorrected, lost control, and the vehicle rolled several times. Siaosi and his father reportedly survived.
Alcohol was not involved according to the reports, but it appears that the driver was the only one wearing a seat belt. More insight as to what happened may be able to be gleaned from an absolutely chilling tweet Manukainiu sent yesterday afternoon.
Others on Twitter urged him to be safe. "@ManukainiuPolo Pull over & get some sleep. We don't need another tragedy. Be safe & God Bless." wrote @labayouboy. From @doc_Nealan: @ManukainiuPolo be careful dude. Pull over to nap if you need to!!!!!!"
No matter what the reason for the crash, nothing can bring them back, but it's especially heartbreaking to think that it could have easily been prevented. If only they had stopped and rested. If perhaps they had been wearing seat belts.
While we hear a lot about drunk drivers, the fact is that those who are tired can be just as dangerous. According AAA, "drowsy drivers" are involved in an estimated 12.5 percent of fatal car crashes. Whether or not this was an actual factor in this case remains to be seen, but it is a good reminder to everyone how vital it is to be well rested when driving.
The communities at both schools are obviously heartbroken along with their families. It's just so difficult to see young lives with so many possibilities lying ahead of them taken in an instant just like that. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their loved ones.
Do you ever drive while tired?
Image via New Mexico State Police