Thy Hoang Vu was many things, her husband said — co-founder of a local bakery, a marketing manager and a mentor to dozens of people and businesses in the Salt Lake area.
But she was a mother to her two boys first.
Vu, 33, was killed Saturday when a suspected drunken driver crashed into her vehicle near 500 North and 1200 West during a police pursuit through Salt Lake City’s west side, police said. The crash, which remains under investigation, also critically injured a close friend of hers.
Tripp Mims, Vu’s husband of 10 years, still can’t believe the crash happened. But he does believe that it shouldn’t have happened at all.
“I still cannot understand how that was allowed to happen in Salt Lake City, or any city,” Mims said. “That street looks very, very similar to the street that I live on... It is our neighborhood and our community, and it’s just astounding to me that this took place in our community.”
Before the crash, North Salt Lake police received an initial report around noon Saturday 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 slamming into Vu’s vehicle in the Fairpark neighborhood as the truck attempted to evade police. The 39-year-old driver of the truck as well as his passenger were seriously injured.
Police on Tuesday arrested the driver 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. He was booked into the Salt Lake County jail, where he remained as of Thursday.
The suspect was previously charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in September, and had two prior DUI convictions in the past 10 years, court documents show.
The DUI charge last month followed a reckless driving call. At the time, the suspect had a blood alcohol level of 0.24%, documents show, almost five times Utah’s legal limit. Investigators found an open container of vodka in his vehicle, records state.
Mentor to many
Vu and her husband created their “cottage bakery” Mims SLC around the start of the pandemic, after Mims was furloughed from his job as a sous chef at downtown restaurant Alamexo. Some of his favorite memories of Vu are from the pop-up events the couple held for their baked goods, where he was able to see the way Vu connected with their customers.
“I would kind of make fun of her and say, like, you know ... those 15 people in line are just buying a baguette because they get to talk to you,” Mims said, “And I really do believe some of that is true, because I’m just finding out how many people she was in the process of mentoring.”
Before Mims SLC, Vu worked as a marketing manager at Salt Lake Community college. Mims said she made an effort to mentor young women, especially Asian American women, Black women and Indigenous women, noting she “really hit her stride in the last five years.”
“She just got her master’s degree from Arizona State University, has worked in higher education for the last five years or so at Salt Lake Community, kind of knowing ‘I can make more money elsewhere,’ but the fact that tuition here is affordable was really important to her,” Mims said.
While balancing her job and her mentees, she also taught her sons, aged 10 and 5, wisdom beyond their years, he said. The family had recently moved into a new house while expanding their bakery.
“They’re just the most intellectually mature, emotionally mature, [children] that I’ve ever met to the point of it being intimidating,” Mims said, later adding, “I’ve got to have my details ready for when they come asking me questions, because they’ll school me if I’m wrong.”
Being a daughter of Vietnamese refugees who ended up in Utah, Vu also worked with multiple refugee charitable organizations, and was particularly involved in the recent resettlement of Afghan refugees in Utah.
“She didn’t complain about it — she went and did something about it,” Mims said. “She used the bread and the bakery as an outlet. She saw, yeah, this is providing nutrition — this is providing comfort, but we can be doing more. And that was everything.”
‘It is just me and Thy’
To honor his wife, Mims said he is making positive changes in his life — from thoughtful daily actions to organizing fundraisers. One of the last things the couple did together was go to Costco to buy necessities for unsheltered high school students whose belongings were ruined in a flood, the result of a fundraiser the couple was in the middle of that had raised over $1,000.
He hopes those who wish to remember Vu will consider similar acts of positivity in their day-to-day life. He said the support his family received has been “overwhelming.”
“I had no idea how many people Thy was talking to daily about what we are doing,” Mims said. “I mean, she talked business, but she would check in on people in a very human and relatable way that I’ve never really experienced and I just had no idea the scale of what she was doing behind the scenes.”
“We are a very, very small business. It is me and Thy. It’s the two of us,” he said. “I didn’t know the scale of what her grand vision of Mims was so much bigger than mine. … But the amount of community support I think just shows you how strong our communities are, and how much of a loss this was.”
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 $70,000 as of Thursday.
— Tribune reporter Kolbie Peterson contributed to this story.