Victim of fatal drunk driving crash helped others in recovery

WINTHROP, Mass. — The innocent victim of a drunk driving crash in Winthrop last month had been sober for years and dedicated herself to helping others recovering from addiction.

Tina Hinojosa, 45, was driving her Jeep around 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 when the driver of another car crashed into her at the intersection of Hagman Road and Walden Street, flipping her vehicle on its side. Hinojosa was critically injured and rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The suspected driver, Kenneth Thompson, 84, of East Boston, was arrested and charged with motor vehicle homicide, operating under the influence of alcohol and failure to stop or yield.

“Somedays, it doesn’t really feel real, especially the way that it all happened,” said friend Nico Longo.

Longo founded NamaStay Sober, which offers free yoga, meditation, fitness and wellness services for people recovering from addiction. Hinojosa, who had recently celebrated eight years of sobriety, quickly became involved with NamaStay Sober, first learning to love yoga – despite how physically difficult it was – before teaching it and becoming the director of events.

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“Sometimes, there can be a lot of fluff in the yoga industry,” Longo said. “And she kind of brought that realness, that ‘Boston-ness.’ And she kind of made it more comfortable for people that maybe had never even tried yoga.”

Hinojosa’s greatest role was mother to her daughter Kayla, Longo said. But she became an important figure in many others’ lives, not only helping them in their fitness but also checking in on them to make sure they were staying healthy.

“She was that rock for so many people,” Longo said. “She was the type of person where, if something made a difference for her, she wanted to share it with other people.”

One of the people whose life she changed is Pete Sacco, who met Hinojosa as teens at Revere High School but reconnected later in life through recovery meetings and yoga.

“I’m an Italian guy from Revere,” said Sacco, one of Hinojosa’s best friends. “I’m not even supposed to be doing yoga or teaching yoga. But I definitely wouldn’t be doing that if it wasn’t for her.”

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While Sacco has known too many young people who have died due to addiction, the circumstances of Hinojosa’s death are different and difficult to comprehend.

“I miss her every day,” Sacco said. “She always had an open heart. She listened. She didn’t judge anybody… She was my go-to for a lot of things. I leaned on her a lot. She was my first call for good news and bad news.”

Since his friend’s death, Sacco said he has heard from multiple people who said she changed or saved their lives.

“She was an amazing person,” Sacco said. “The profound effect she had – her footprint – it’s enormous.”

To honor that legacy, Hinojosa’s family, friends and colleagues are organizing a memorial yoga class and meditation on Saturday, Sept. 18 at 4 p.m. at Harry Della Russo Stadium at 51 Park Ave. in Revere. Everyone is welcome, and a $15 donation will cover the class and a T-shirt. Proceeds benefit NamaStay Sober.

Further details about Saturday’s class and other services can be found here.