Theirs was a great love story in a seemingly charmed life, said friends.
Rima Abbas was a family doctor. Issam Abbas was a lawyer and real estate agent. They were devoted to their children.
In a horrifying second, it all came to a fiery end early Sunday when their vehicle was struck by a wrong-way driver in Lexington, Kentucky.
All five members of the Northville family perished. Family and friends are struggling to fathom it.
“It’s incomprehensible,” said Sam Baydoun, a Wayne County commissioner and real estate broker who had worked with Issam.
The Abbases were returning home from a Florida vacation when their SUV was hit head-on by a suspected drunk driver Sunday at 2:30 a.m. on Interstate 75 in Lexington, Kentucky, police said.
Before the crash, police received 911 calls about a white pickup truck heading the wrong way on northbound I-75, said authorities.
Witness Kenneth DeGraaf told WLEX-TV in Lexington that the pickup truck was coming toward him prior to the fiery crash.
“I thought I was seeing something, honestly,” DeGraaf said. “He was in the center lane. I was in the center lane. I had to merge out of the way at the last second to get to the right lane. I mean, he was flying. Absolutely flying.”
The five victims, who were identified by the Fayette County coroner’s office, were Issam, 42; Rima, 38; and their children Ali, 14; Isabelle, 13; and Giselle, 7.
The pickup driver, identified as Joey Lee Bailey of Georgetown, Kentucky, also was killed in the crash, authorities said. The coroner’s statement said authorities believe Bailey was driving under the influence and that toxicology tests were planned. They had no information Sunday night. The speed of the truck at the time of the crash was not available.
The news devastated family and friends of the family, who said they were trying to process the loss.
“You don’t expect a whole family to get wiped out,” said Issam Abbas’ cousin, Habib Abbas. “You think to yourself ‘What’s the worst case scenario?’ and that’s it.”
Habib, 44, of Dearborn said the couple seemed to have it all.
“They had a beautiful life, home and a perfect love story,” he said.
Habib Abbas said he had heard the news of the crash and didn’t believe it. “I thought it was a rumor or something and then saw it again and called his sister. She and the family are even more in denial.”
Baydoun described Issam as friendly, a great family man and active in the community, where he is well-respected.
He worked three years in the Northville office of Curran & Oberski real estate, said Baydoun.
“It’s such a tragedy,” said Baydoun.
Rima was a family medicine doctor at the Beaumont Medical Center in Garden City.
She graduated from the Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2006, and served her residency in family medicine at Oakwood Hospital in Wayne in 2009. Both of them grew up in east Dearborn, friends said.
Among those trying to come to terms with the tragedy are her colleagues at Beaumont.
“We are devastated by the tragic loss of Dr. Rima Abbas, her beloved husband and children,” said David Wood, Beaumont Health chief medical officer.
“She was a caring mother and a dedicated family practice physician. Our hearts go out to all of her family, friends and patients during this difficult time.”
Her office will be closed Monday, said Wood.
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans issued a statement on Facebook about the deaths Sunday:
“I am heartbroken by the news that Issam and Rima Abbas, along with their three children Ali, Isabella, and Giselle, were killed in a traffic crash this morning while traveling in Kentucky. The Abbas family were Northville residents and active members of our community.
“My family’s thoughts and prayers are with the Abbas family’s loved ones today as they grieve after this senseless tragedy.”
Rima Abbas is the granddaughter of the founder of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, said Kassem Allie, executive administrator of the mosque.
A funeral service is scheduled to be held at the center Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Visitation will be Monday from 6-8 p.m. The public is welcomed, Allie said.