Highlands University rugby player killed in rollover

Posted at: 09/16/2012 12:45 PM
Updated at: 09/17/2012 12:04 AM
By: Shaun Griswold, KOB.com

A fatal SUV rollover accident Saturday took the life of a New Mexico Highlands University rugby club player returning home with teammates after a match in Albuquerque, school officials said.

The Vatos rugby club was returning from a game against the Brujos rugby club at Saint Puis X High School.

According to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, mechanical problems caused the vehicle to swerve off Interstate 25 near the Clines Corners exit. 

Alani Sione was identified as the player who died in the crash. 

His wife Tina was reportedly driving the vehicle. One other rugby player and five others, including four children were sent to the hospital with injuries. They are all listed in stable condition.

Sione is not a student at Highlands.

The rugby team is a club sport with spots reserved for community members and allows private vehicle use to games, Highlands University Dean of Students Fidel Trujillo said.

The rest of the team was in a school-authorized van that was not involved in the accident, he said.

"We send our thoughts and prayers for the loss of Alani Sione," Trujillo said. "It's very difficult but the university is praying for the family and the speedy recovery for those injured."

Many students from the campus in Las Vegas, NM are offering support for the family, Trujillo said. 

"(Alani's wife) Tina is a leader on our campus," he said. "She is Senate Pro-Tem in the student government and very popular on our campus. More than 30 people showed up at the ER to offer support to the loss for her family and many were just regular students not with the rugby team." 

Highlands has set up grief counselors for those on campus. 

Sheriff officials said the investigation into this accident is ongoing.