Updated November 6, 2021 - 4:46 pm
Tina Tintor was “unapologetically herself in every way,” even as a teenager, a time usually marked by self-doubt and uncertainty.
“She was a force to be reckoned with in the best possible way,” Mia Galvan, a high school friend, recalled on Friday, three days after Tintor was killed in a fiery crash involving then-Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs. “She was never afraid to be herself. She never grew out of that.”
Early on Tuesday, Tintor, a 2016 graduate of Durango High School, was driving home after taking her dog, Max, on a late-night walk with her best friend, Bojana Filipovic. Tintor was headed down Rainbow Boulevard, toward her family’s home, when she was rear-ended by a speeding Chevrolet Corvette Stingray driven by Ruggs, according to authorities.
On Wednesday evening, Filipovic visited the crash site, where she told reporters that she and Tintor often went to dog parks to walk Max and hang out, according to reports by KVVU-TV, Channel 5 and KLAS-TV, Channel 8.
“We met when we were 5 years old in the same neighborhood she lives in now,” Filipovic said. “That’s where she was heading.”
Clark County property records show that Tintor was about 2 miles from home when she was killed. Mere seconds before the crash, the Corvette was traveling at 156 mph, more than 110 mph over the speed limit in the residential area, according to a prosecutor.
The prosecutor said Tintor’s Toyota RAV4 was struck with “such violent force” that it burst into flames, trapping her and Max inside the SUV despite rescue efforts by witnesses who had stopped to help. Both died inside the SUV, authorities said. Tintor was 23.
Ruggs faces two counts each of DUI and reckless driving — in connection with Tintor’s death and with the injuries his girlfriend, who was in the front seat of the Corvette, suffered in the crash.
A ‘loving soul’
Seemingly overnight, Tintor’s name was pushed into the national spotlight, printed and broadcast again and again in headlines and TV news segments next to the football player’s name.
“To see her name and face all over the news was the most unreal moment to have to grasp,” said Galvan, who doesn’t want her friend’s name or story to get lost in the mix of the overwhelming national attention.
Tintor was kind, funny and smart. A hard worker with big dreams, but spontaneous and fun, too. Like that time in high school when Tintor and Galvan “impulsively bleached” their hair because Tintor had extra hair dye sitting in her bathroom cabinet. And because they were bored.
During the height of the COVID-19 shut down last year, when widespread panic led to empty store shelves, Galvan had posted on social media that she was having trouble finding baby wipes for her son. Tintor messaged her “so quick,” she said, and asked when and where she could drop off some wipes.
“She was always going out of her way in any way she could for her friends,” she said. “A friendship like hers will be hard to find again.”
In a GoFundMe account set up Friday evening by the woman’s family, her brother, Djordje, echoed Galvan’s memories of Tintor, describing his sister as “a beautiful loving soul that always put everyone before herself.”
“Whether she knew you or not, Tina was the type of person that would give you the food off of her plate to make sure you weren’t hungry,” Djordje Tintor wrote. “Tina was the shoulder to cry on, the ear that made you felt heard, and the friendly smile you needed when you made a bad joke.”
Money raised will be put toward funeral costs, according to the GoFundMe page. In it, Djordje Tintor also noted: “Many people have asked about a GoFundMe page and there may be other pages made in Tina’s name. Those pages are not from our family.”
Family fled Serbia
Tina Tintor’s parents have not publicly commented on the crash, but through their attorney on Thursday, released a statement that read, in part: “Tina’s tragic loss has devastated her family beyond a grief they could ever comprehend. Family was everything to Tina, and she was the light of her parents’ life.”
According to the statement, Tina Tintor had called Las Vegas home since she was a baby. Djordje Tintor has said their family escaped war-torn Serbia in 2000 before moving to the valley.
Filipovic, Tina Tintor’s best friend for nearly 20 years, told the TV stations on Wednesday that the two recently had been “talking about going to Serbia together.” Both Serbian immigrants, Tina Tintor and Filipovic immediately bonded over their shared cultural heritage, according to the TV stations.
“She was just about to get her citizenship, and everything was going swell,” said Filipovic, who told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday that she wasn’t ready to comment further.
The woman’s death has touched the Las Vegas community, drawing friends, relatives and strangers alike to the site of the crash near Rainbow Boulevard and Spring Valley Parkway. There, two makeshift memorials with candles, balloons and bouquets have grown considerably in just three days.
On Friday night, a group of people gathered at the intersection in Tina Tintor’s honor.
Among them was Mary Vogl, who worked with the woman at a nearby Target. Vogl said she broke down in tears soon after clocking in for a shift on Wednesday and learning that the crash victim was “our Tina.”
“This was something that didn’t have to happen,” she said. “I’m going to miss her forever.”