February 23, 2022 - 7:47 pm
Updated February 24, 2022 - 10:19 am
Clutching a small “Blues Clues” stuffed animal, a grieving woman walked up to a mural memorializing her niece, Tina Tintor, and her golden retriever, Max.
As the woman set down the toy dog, she caressed the wall, nearly four months after Tintor and her dog died in a crash Las Vegas police said was caused by former Raider Henry Ruggs .
Ljiljana Strbac then stepped back to marvel at the memorial, wiping away tears. On this brisk Wednesday afternoon, she was joined by other relatives, including Tintor’s father, Nedjeljko, brother Djordje Tintor, and cousins.
Passing traffic broke through their mostly-silent commemoration. Tintor’s father began to sob as they walked away.
“Tina is a hero, and she should be remembered as a hero,” said her uncle Pedja Komazec, saying that her death could have averted a more catastrophic crash further along the road.
Prosecutors have alleged that Ruggs was drunk and speeding at 156 mph in early November when he smashed into Tintor’s compact SUV.
Komazec said Tintor’s parents are still in tatters and not ready to speak publicly, but that the family did not want to forget what they lost.
A couple of months ago, Komazec commissioned a mural near the crash site near the intersection of Rainbow Boulevard and Spring Valley Parkway.
After approval from Clark County and the homeowner who owns the wall facing the throughway, the artist, who goes by the moniker “Latin Artist,” started work on a colorful portrait of a pensive Tina Tintor posing beside a joyous Max.
Near the mural, flowers, other mementos, and solar-powered lights rest inside a pit made out of bricks. A large, bright-tinted rock is adorned by a sunflower.
While Komazec visits the memorial site every day to clear it of any debris, Tintor’s grieving mother visits her daughter’s grave.
“When I come back from work, I just want to stop here and see her face,” he said.
Asked to describe his niece, Komazec said he found it hard to come up with words, but that he still remembers her as a baby, around the time the family was fleeing a war zone in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. They escaped their native Croatia, and moved to Serbia before they immigrated to Las Vegas, he said.
The family never imagined experiencing tragedy in the U.S., he said.
“They think it’s going to be better for life,” Komazec said. “Get to work, make some money.”
He said his niece loved animals, and left behind another dog and three cats. When she was younger, she wanted to study medicine, but later shifted her focus into a career in information technology.
“It’s really hard to even talk about it,” said Komazec, noting that it seems like not a minute goes by without her parents crying. He said the family is grateful for an outpouring of support from the community.
Meanwhile, a high-profile criminal case plays out in court against Ruggs, who is out on house arrest as he faces felony counts of DUI resulting in death, DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm and two counts of reckless driving resulting in death or substantial bodily harm.
Ruggs is next due in court March 10, Las Vegas Justice Court logs show.
Though focused on Ruggs’ case, her uncle also likes to think of happier moments.
“Yesterday, she was, for me, a kid,” he said, smiling. “And all of a sudden she was grown.”