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Utah Utes football: Players lose family in tsunami

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 7:48 p.m. MDT

At least two University of Utah football players lost relatives in the earthquake and tsunami that struck Samoa and American Samoa on Tuesday.

Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga lost eight family members, and offensive lineman Neli A'asa had three die in the natural disasters. All were believed to be aunts, uncles or cousins.

"We've got quite a few kids that it affects directly. It's a tragic situation," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "I don't know all the details, but I know that a lot of guys on this football team were affected by it."

Those in the program, he added, are doing whatever they can to help them out.

"It's unique. It's tough. Obviously we give them our support," Whittingham said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them. It's a tough deal."

Doug Elisaia, Utah's director of strength and conditioning, was raised in American Samoa and has been monitoring the situation via the Internet and through text messages with several of the players. Other forms of communication have been limited because of devastation in the region.

Elisaia said most of his family members were safe and accounted for by nightfall on Tuesday. The exception was two aunts who were located on Wednesday. They happened to be on higher ground when the tsunami struck.

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com

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