Police on Tuesday named the woman killed Saturday when a suspected drunken driver crashed into her vehicle during a police pursuit through Salt Lake City’s west side.
Thy Hoang Vu, 33, was fatally struck when the DUI suspect “T-boned” her vehicle near 500 North and 1200 West, according to a news release from the Salt Lake City Police Department. The suspect was attempting to evade a North Salt Lake police officer when Vu was killed. The crash remains under investigation.
Police arrested a 39-year-old man Tuesday in connection with the fatal crash, according to a news release from Salt Lake City police. The man was taken into custody “immediately” after doctors said he could leave the hospital, the release said. He will be booked into the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of criminal automobile homicide, driving under the influence, driving on a suspended or revoked license, speeding, failure to adhere to the right of way, reckless driving and other alleged offenses.
Vu, a mother of two, had started local bakery Mims SLC with her husband, Tripp Mims, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her death prompted an outpouring of social media posts from friends and residents.
The crash also injured a passenger in Vu’s vehicle. As of Tuesday, that woman — whom police have not named — remained hospitalized in critical condition. A dog that investigators believe was in Vu’s car died at the scene.
Police said the fleeing vehicle’s driver as well as a passenger, both men, were hospitalized in serious condition. The passenger remains in the hospital, and his name has not been released.
On Saturday around noon, the North Salt Lake Police Department received an initial report of two men passing a bottle of whiskey back and forth as one drove a Ford F-250, officials said. Officers located the truck on U.S. Route 89 and started a pursuit.
The truck then drove on Interstate 15 and exited into the Salt Lake area before colliding with Vu’s vehicle in the Fairpark neighborhood.
Crash under investigation
The Salt Lake County Officer Involved Critical Incident Protocol Team 1 is investigating the crash along with the Crash Analysis Reconstruction Team, which includes law enforcement from Salt Lake City police and several other Salt Lake Valley law enforcement agencies, according to SLCPD.com. However, no Salt Lake City police officers were involved in the pursuit, the department said.
Police departments more typically introduce officer-involved critical incident protocols after police shootings. But Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said Tuesday that they can be applied to police pursuits as well.
“Police pursuits, they’re very dangerous, and that’s why we have very strict policies and procedures on these matters,” Brown said at a Salt Lake City Council work meeting Tuesday. “They can expose citizens, law enforcement and the fleeing violators to serious injury or death.”
Saturday in particular “strained” the department’s resources, Brown continued. He said that between 5 and 8 p.m., the department received 35% more calls for service compared to the average amount of calls received in the same time period over the past 15 days. “We don’t know why that is,” he said.
A few hours before the Fairpark crash, a pedestrian in his 30s was injured when he was hit by a truck at the intersection of 1000 North and Redwood Road. Responding to both crashes was a “one-two situation that required the officers from across the city to step in and help out,” Brown said.
To deal with a backlog of calls for service, speciality squads including bike units, motor officers and gang units were called in, but “this is not sustainable,” he said.
The police department remains understaffed, and has 55 sworn vacancies as of this week, Brown said. To help fill some of those gaps, the police chief said the department is in the process of hiring “police telephonic specialists” who can take “low-level calls” that don’t require an officer response. “We expect to have them up and running by the first of the month,” he said.
Vu described as ‘empathetic, generous, adventurous’
At the same work meeting, Salt Lake City Council Member Ana Valdemoros said Vu was loved by the community.
“She was really involved in helping communities of color and helping nonprofits and doing a lot of things to improve the lives of others here in the Salt Lake City area,” Valdemoros said. “So my heart goes to Thy’s husband and the two children she left behind.” Vu “will certainly be missed.”
Vu and her husband had started their “cottage bakery” Mims SLC during the pandemic after Mims was furloughed from his full-time sous chef job at Mexican restaurant Alamexo. Vu utilized her skills as a marketing manager at Salt Lake Community college to launch Mims SLC on Instagram, and she told The Tribune in January that she enjoyed interacting with customers on that platform even after the couple launched an official website.
Vu at the time explained the significance of “building this kind of micro community where we break bread with one another.”
“Not to be cheesy,” she said, “but that’s really important to us — seeing a bunch of strangers come together and their only connection point being our bread.”
In addition to selling home-baked artisan bread, the couple also ran several successful bake sales and fundraisers benefiting Salt Lake Valley Covid Mutual Aid and the Utah Refugee Connection, an organization that held special significance for Vu.
Vu was born and raised in Salt Lake City, but her parents are Vietnamese refugees who fled the country by boat in the early ‘80s. “Refugees were really hard hit with this pandemic, and we wanted to do something to help,” she said.
When reached by The Tribune, a relative of Vu’s declined comment on Mims’ behalf.
According to a Give InKind page established after Vu’s death, “Thy was incredibly empathetic, generous, adventurous and passionate about her loved ones and community.”
“She was always thinking of other people and made sure that whenever MimsSLC did well, they donated to one of the community projects she was involved with,” the page states.
In lieu of flowers, people who wish to express their support for Vu’s family may donate to a cause she was involved in, including the English Skills Learning Center and Friends of Great Salt Lake, the page states.
A silent online auction to benefit Vu’s family will run through Saturday at 7 p.m. Listed items include beeswax candles, jewelry, quilts, custom tattooing, nail art and more, according to Instagram account @livelikethy.
A friend of the family also set up a GoFundMe page for any expenses that Mims or their two sons may incur. The fund has raised more than $53,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
— Tribune reporter Jordan Miller contributed to this story.