By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — From Dearborn to Northville and beyond — the support for the Abbas family poured out after they were killed in a car crash Jan. 6 in Kentucky.
Real estate agent and lawyer Issam Abbas, 42; his wife, Dr. Rima Abbas, 38; and their children Ali, 14, Isabella, 13, and Giselle, 7, all died as they were returning home from a trip to Florida.
The family was traveling north in I-75 in Lexington at 2:30 a.m. when a white Chevy pickup truck was traveling in the wrong direction on the highway.
Joey Bailey, 41, of Georgetown, Ky. was suspected to be drunk when he was driving the truck that crashed into the Abbas’ Cadillac Escalade. Bailey died as a result of the crash.
The Lexington Police Department said that based on 911 phone calls, Bailey was traveling the wrong way for six miles starting at mile marker 113 and ending at the crash scene at mile marker 107. When the crash occurred, the Escalade caught fire but the pickup did not.
According to family members, the Florida trip was postponed for Rima’s grandmothers funeral on Dec. 24 causing the family to return on Sunday instead of Saturday night.
Visitation and funeral services took place Jan. 6 to 8 at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, the city where Rima and Issam Abbas grew up, where over 1,000 people paid their respects. The entire family was buried Jan. 8 at the Islamic Memorial Gardens of Westland.
In lieu of flowers or other donations, family members are asking for donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving online or by check. To donate online go to www.madd.donordrive.com/campaign/The-Abbas-Family; and checks can be sent to 1739 W. Big Beaver Road, Troy, MI, 48084.
The Abbas family resided in Northville where all three children attended Northville Public Schools which provided support services to students and staff.
Ali Abbas was in eighth grade and Isabella Abbas in seventh grade both at Hillside Middle School. Giselle Abbas was in second grade at Amerman Elementary School.
“We are saddened by this loss and will make every effort to support your child as needed,” Northville Public Schools Supt. Mary Kay Gallagher wrote in a letter to parents and staff. “We will be working together with students, teachers, and parents to discuss ways to recognize and honor the lives of Ali, Isabella and Giselle and their parents over the coming days.”
A candlelight vigil was held Jan. 11 in the family’s memory at Ford Field Park in Northville.
Rima Abbas was a family physician with an office in Garden City and also practiced medicine at Beaumont Hospital-Wayne.
“We are devastated by the tragic loss of Dr. Rima Abbas, her beloved husband and children.” Beaumont Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Wood said in a statement. “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.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) honored the family on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 10 and pledged to introduce legislation to reduce alcohol-impaired driving.
“In every sense of the word, they were our community,” Dingell said. “The parents were born and raised in Dearborn. Rima served many as a respected doctor at Beaumont, and had just been promoted to head all the doctors at the hospital. Issam had a successful career as a lawyer and real estate agent.
“Children, Ali aged 13, Isabelle aged 12, and Giselle aged 7 were gifts from god and the center of their parents lives but so many others in Dearborn. Their family, their very extended family, was devoted to everything that they did. Their absence stunned this community and is felt deeply and emotionally.
“This week, I’m introducing legislation in memory of the Abbas family that would mandate all new vehicles be equipped with interlock breathalyzer devices. This will stop intoxicated drivers from ever starting a vehicle and keep them off the roads. If we can keep one person from dying on the roads and make people think twice before getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t – even when they are buzzed and think they’ll be OK – then won’t we have been successful?”
Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun, a friend of the family and colleague of Issam Abbas, offered his condolences in a Facebook post Feb. 6.
“Heaven gained 5 beautiful souls,” he wrote. “I am at loss for words. There are no words to describe this senseless and incomprehensible tragedy. My friend and colleague and his wife and three children were killed in a fiery crash earlier today, when a drunk driver was driving the wrong way on I-75. Issam Abbas was a great family man who loved his wife and children.
“He was well respected in our real estate Industry. His wife, Dr. Rima Abbas was a prominent doctor at Beaumont Hospital. May God rest your soul, my friend, and the souls of your wife and three beautiful children in eternal peace.”
ACCESS CEO, Hassan Jaber released a statement Jan. 7 on the Abbas family death. ACCESS Director of Communications Rana Abbas-Taylor is the sister of Rima Abbas.
“Our hearts are broken at this horrific news,” Jaber said. “It’s a loss not only for the immediate family, but also for ACCESS and the entire Arab American community. The Abbas family lived with extraordinary purpose and devoted their talents and abilities to improve the lives of everyone they touched. There are no words to fully express what they mean to ACCESS and our community. They will forever remain in our memory.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)