A Snow College football player died from head injuries sustained in a strange one-vehicle accident in Ephraim on Sunday night Oct. 3.
The deceased man was identified as freshman offensive lineman Mafatini Mafatini, age 18. When the accident occurred, Mafatini was sitting in the trunk of a car with his legs out as his fellow classmates and teammates drove back to their dorms after visiting the neighborhood convenience store, said Utah Highway Patrolman Richard Nielson. They were only traveling a block or so.
The car, an Audi A5, was moving along at the speed limit, about 25 mph, on 100 North and 50 E. when Mafatini, for some reason, fell out of the trunk, and the back of his head struck the asphalt, Nielson said. Apparently Mafatini, a big guy at 6’-2” weighing about 300 pounds, was trying to make an adjustment in his sitting position and toppled over.
Emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene a few minutes later and started CPR on him, but they couldn’t bring him back, Nielson said.
There were four other Snow College students riding in the car, and they were badly shaken up over the incident, Nielson said.
There were no drugs or alcohol involved and there have been no criminal charges filed at this time, Nielson said. But the accident is still under investigation.
Mafatini joined the Badgers this season and prior to moving to Ephraim, he played football at Baldwin High in Maui, Hawaii. He made the 2019 Maui Interscholastic League All-Star first team as well as a second-team All-Star on the offensive line, but he missed his senior season due to the COVID-19 shutdown, according to the Maui News.
A vigil was held in memory of Mafatini on Monday night at the Robert Stoddard Football Field, and items were placed at the entrance to the Terry Foote Stadium in his honor, according to a Snow College news release.
Snow College Football Coach Zac Erekson said, “We are extremely saddened by the news of Mafatini’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family back in Maui. Mafatini was such a bright light in this world. His smile and infectious laugh will be missed not only by our team, but by all those who knew him. Again, we give our love and prayers for his family and for all those that were involved in this terrible accident.”
Snow College President Bradley Cook thanked the first responders for their care and concern and expressed sympathy to Mafatini’s family, friends and teammates. “A tragedy like this shakes all of us,” he said. “We appreciate those who have delicately handled this situation with competence and pledge our support to our coaches, players and the Mafatini family during this difficult time.”
Athletic Director Rob Nielson echoed President Cook’s comments: “Badger Football is a family, and we all are experiencing grief today. We will work together and take care of one another.”
In a tweet sent out early Monday morning, Snow College defensive coordinator Jan Jorgensen shared: “It’s nights like tonight when you realize football means very little and at the same time, it means everything. The bond and brotherhood felt by these young men will carry them through some of the worst moments of their lives. This team will forever have a place in my heart.”
Numerous Snow College football players posted to Twitter early Monday morning expressing their condolences for #74.