The close-knit community at the Malua Theological College is reeling from the unexpected loss of a first year student who collapsed and died last week.
The death of 35-year-old Kitiona Mauli'o was confirmed by an official of the church who did not want to be named.
He told the Samoa Observer the incident has come as a major shock since Mr. Mauli’o, who joined the College from Brisbane Australia, did not show any signs of being unwell.
The official said Mr. Mauli’o collapsed during a routine working bee where students help to prepare the campus for the academic year ahead. He was taken to the nearby Leulumoega Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“Everyone is feeling sad about the loss,” the official said. “He was so excited about what was up ahead, he was looking forward to his days at the college but then this happened.”
It was not possible to get an official comment from the Bible College about the incident.
But the Daily Mail Australia reports that Mr. Mauli’o was a rugby star in Australia before he joined the Malua Theological College.
He had played for the Australian Schoolboys team in 2001 and was a member of the Queensland Reds academy.
As a member of the Australian Schools team, Mr. Mauli'o toured Japan and the United Kingdom alongside future Wallabies representatives Drew Mitchell, Rodney Blake, Josh Valentine and Hugh McMeniman.
A Facebook tribute to Mr. Mauli'o described him as a 'true gentleman'.
“Kitiona Malui'o was a great role model in the Pacific community especially his Samoan heritage. A gifted halfback with exceptional field management and quick off the mark pace.
“He was inspired to become a minister through his beloved church. He will be truly missed, fly high brother.”
Mr. Mauli'o has left behind his heartbroken wife Taafili and their young daughter.
Mr. Mauli'o's family members took to Facebook to speak out about his death.
A Samoan police spokesman said they are investigating the death and could not comment on the cause.