Manukainiu, 19, died in the one-vehicle rollover accident that occurred Monday at 7:52 p.m. (Central time). He was one of three individuals that died in the accident, which also killed Gaius Vaenuku, an incoming member of the Utah football team and Panukainiu's former teammate at Trinity.
According to the report from the New Mexico State Police, Manukainiu was a passenger in a 2002 Toyota Sequoia traveling south on U.S. 550 in Sandoval County in New Mexico when the vehicle drifted off the roadway. The driver overcorrected and the vehicle rolled several times, killing Manukainiu and another passenger, Andrew Uhatafe, who were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.
Vaenuku was taken by ambulance from the scene and pronounced dead in the ambulance. The driver and a fifth passenger were transported to San Juan Regional Hospital after sustaining minor injuries. The police report said alcohol was not involved and it appeared that the driver was the only person wearing a seat belt.
Manukainiu was part of the Aggies’ 2012 signing class and redshirted last season. He was expected to play a reserve role this season but was not listed on the Aggies’ defensive depth chart heading into the start of fall drills.
“We lost a terrific young man,” Texas A&M head football coach Kevin Sumlin said in a statement released by school officials. “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, a two-time all-district performer at Trinity, was rated as a four-star prospect in high school by ESPN and 247sports.com. He was considered a three-star prospect by Scout.com and Rivals.com.
In 2011, his senior season at Trinity, he helped lead the Trojans to an undefeated regular-season record before losing in the third round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs to Arlington Martin.
Manukainiu was a recreation, parks and tourism science major at A&M and is survived by his mother, Lima Uhatafe of Euless. Via Twitter, his death triggered responses from fellow college players.
Texas offensive lineman Jake Raulerson, a redshirt freshman from Celina, mentioned Manukainiu on his Twitter account (@JakeRaulerson55). Raulerson wrote: “Really sad to hear that my buddy Polo from A&M passed this morning. Life’s too short be thankful for another day. #RIPPolo.”
A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (@JManziel2), the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, wrote: "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."
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who spent last season as A&M's offensive coordinator, got to know Manukainiu during his stint in College Station. Kingsbury (@TTUKingsbury) wrote: "My thoughts and prayers go out to Polo's family and friends. An incredible young man gone way too soon. RIP Polo."
_ Jimmy Burch