EL CENTRO, Calif. -
Christian Payan said he’s still in shock, in disbelief at what happened to his girlfriend Tonya Pugh. She was a popular local performer known as TZA at musical events.
“I thought she was playing at first. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. How is it that she’s alive one second and right after that she collapses and…” Payan said.
Payan said the last moments of Tonya’s life were happy ones. He spoke to us on Saturday evening at a gathering in El Centro to raise funds to send her remains home.
“She was active. She was alive and everything. In an instant, she just passed away and there’s no way I can explain it. I brought her up on top of the bed. I shook her. Tonya, Tonya, wake up, wake up. I thought she was just messing around. After that, I checked her heart beat. There was no heartbeat at all,” Payan said.
They were staying at an El Centro hotel on Friday morning, July 21st. Payan said Tonya was upbeat, talking about future plans, even considering marriage. He assures they hadn’t taken any drugs, only just a few drinks of wine.
“We were there for a few hours and at the very last moment of her life she was actually very, very happy. But, she just passed away on me in an instant. She and I only drank a little bit; she wasn’t drunk, nothing like that. She just ended up passing away and we still have no idea what happened,” Payan said.
When Payan saw Tonya collapse suddenly, he said he called 911 and was instructed to give CPR. He did so until paramedics arrived.
“About half ways through that’s when I realized that she’s not going to come back,” Payan said.
Payan is in contact with Tonya’s family. He said the autopsy results won’t be ready for another 30 days or more.
“It still hurts. The pain’s not going to go away,” Payan said.
People can go to the Go-Fund-Me page “Bring TZA Home” if they want to help send Tonya back to her family in Oregon.