SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - The family of an upcoming football player for the University of Utah is mourning his death. He was one of several people who died in a car crash early Tuesday morning. Tuesday his family spoke to ABC 4 Utah.
This is a rough day not only for the University of Utah, but it's heartbreaking for this young man's family. They say he was the type of person who you just loved to be around. He had great sports potential, and was a man of faith, but now he's gone.
You may have never heard of Gaius Vaenuku, but his family members in Utah are struggling with his death.
"This is the time we're tested to go and pick up a son and bring him home in casket," said Fotu Katoa, Vaenuku's cousin.
Vaenuku was one of three people who died Tuesday morning in car crash in New Mexico. He was a high school football star who recently graduated from Trinity High in Texas. He was expected to play defensive tackle this season for the University of Utah.
"We're just in awe," said Katoa.
Vaenuku's cousin Reporter Brian Carlson Gaius wasn't just a great football player, he was a great human being.
"Happy, Go-lucky, just a great kid. He's an Eagle Scout, he's active and participates in the community, he was Homecoming King," Katoa said.
Vaenuku's passing prompted the following statement from Utah Head Football Coach Kyle Whittingham:
"Everyone who knew Gaius is heartbroken today, 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."
According to reports from New Mexico, the driver of the car Vaenuku was riding in drifted off the road, lost control and their car rolled. As you can imagine, the details are painful Vaenuku's family, but right now their faith is helping them stay strong.
"If didn't have the understanding that we do and beliefs and different cultural and aspects of life, I don't know how we're through this honestly," said Katoa.
What may be even more heartbreaking is Vaenuku wasn't supposed to be in the car. He had just finished a visit to Utah and was planning on flying back home to Texas. But instead he decided to drive back with his football friends.
Follow Brian Carlson on Twitter: @briancarlsontv