RUGBY: Manu Samoa iconic skipper dies of heart attack

Fats and Manu Samoa story immortalized in a book after the 1991 World Cup spoils

Fats and the Manu Samoa story immortalized in a book after the 1991 World Cup spoils

By Alan Ah Mu

APIA: WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2013: Former Manu Samoa captain Peter “Fats” Fatialofa died this morning.  He was 54.

Fatialofa died of an apparent heart attack shortly after he had pulled into T & N Toleafoa Supermarket in Apia around 7 o’clock.

He was found by security guard Peter Malotau Su’e as he returned from the connecting petrol station next door where he’d gone to get change for the supermarket.

Fatialofa often stopped at the supermarket for coffee and pie mornings and have a laugh with staff, Su’e said.

“This was the only morning he came and didn’t go inside (the supermarket),” he said.

“He sat strangely (in his car),” he said.

The guard said he knocked on the car window. When there was no response he opened the driver’s door and realised something was wrong. Su’e called out to the supermarket supervisor to telephone the ambulance and lowered the driver’s seat and pumped Fatialofa’s chest.

He said he felt for a pulse on Fatialofa’s wrist but found none. By the time the ambulance arrived “Fats” was gone, he said.

T & N Supermarket and petrol station is at Savalalo, which is part of the Apia urban area.

Fatialofa was scheduled to co-host a morning show at 7am today at Radio Polynesia a short walk from the supermarket. Co-host and radio owner Mapusua Corey Keil saw it was past 7 o’clock and texted Fatialofa to ask, “Sole (guy), where are you?”

They had had drinks last night with former Manu Samoa and All Black Dylan Mika to watch the Melbourne Cup on television in town, Maposua said.

With no reply to his text he continued on with the show alone.

He saw from his studio window an ambulance pull into the petrol station and shortly afterwards Police too.

Mapusua said he sent their reporter Leilua Ame Tanielu over to find out what was happening.

In the meantime he carried on with the show reporting on air that a man had been found dead in his car at the Toleafoa petrol station and appealed to members of the public to help identify him through the number plate of his vehicle of 1176.

“We didn’t know (it was Fatialofa),” said Mapusua.

When they did know shock set in.

“And Ame was like freaking out.”

Mapusua said Fatialofa had suffered a heart attack.

“It was his heart,” said well-known pop singer, Toluma’alave Musiluki Su’a.

A cousin of Fatialofa’s, Toluma’alave said he telephoned their relatives in Savai’i Island to listen in to their radio to learn about what had happened.

Following through on an appeal texted through to him by Mika Dylan, Mapusua asked listeners not to put the bad news on Facebook until Fatialofa’s family in New Zealand had been told.

Mapusua told listeners someone was on her way to inform Fatialofa’s wife, Anne in Auckland, of the bad news.

Fatialofa captained Samoa when they shocked the rugby world by reaching the quarter finals of their first World Cup in 1991.

After that campaign he was awarded the chiefly title of Papali’itele by the Head of State.

He was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1996 for his services to rugby.

Born in Samoa, Fatialofa grew up in New Zealand, where he played for the champion Auckland rugby side of the 1980s. His father, the late MP, Fatialofa Momo’e brought him to Samoa in his teens where he attended Marist St Josephs, the same college that produced Samoan rugby greats such as Brian Lima who was the youngest player in the 1991 World Cup that Fats captained Manu Samoa to shake what was the world rugby order.