Investigators believe they are getting closer to learning the events that led up to a wrong-way crash that killed a family of five and another driver on Interstate 75 in Lexington.
Lexington police believe Joey Lee Bailey, 41, of Georgetown got onto the interstate from Paris Pike at exit 113, according to spokeswoman Brenna Angel. He had driven south in the northbound lanes about six miles when his pickup truck collided with an SUV at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Friends and relatives of a Michigan family killed in the fiery crash are devastated, according to media reports.
Issam Abbas, 42; Rima Abbas, 38 and their children Ali Abbas, 14; Isabella Abbas, 13; and Giselle Abbas, 7, all died of blunt-force trauma and thermal injuries when their SUV was hit. The family was traveling home to Michigan from a Florida vacation, according to the Fayette County coroner.
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Visitation for the Abbas family was set for Monday night, and the funeral was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich., according to the mosque. Additional prayer and commemoration services were scheduled for Thursday and Sunday.
“There is no way the family and our community can fathom this loss,” said Fayez Faraj, who told the Detroit Free Press he has been a close family friend for the past 25 years. “A beautiful family was senselessly taken away from us. The Abbas family was kind, loving, outgoing and generous. They raised three beautiful children who shared their parents love of life.”
Rima Abbas was a well-known doctor with Beaumont Health in Michigan and her husband, Issam, was a real estate agent and lawyer, according to WDIV Local 4. Rima and Issam were married while he attended law school at Wayne State University where she was in medical school, the Free Press reported.
The family’s travel plans changed because of the death of Rima’s grandmother, according to the Associated Press. They headed to Florida later than originally planned and pushed their plans to head back to Michigan to Saturday.
Habib Abbas, Issam’s cousin, told The Detroit News he did not believe the news when he first heard it.
“You don’t expect a whole family to get wiped out. You think to yourself, ‘What’s the worst case scenario?’ and that’s it,” Habib Abbas said.
“They had a beautiful life, home and a perfect love story,” he added.
Adnan Chirri, Rima’s uncle, told the Detroit Free Press “shocking” did not adequately describe the horrific events.
“You hardly ever hear of an entire family passing at the same time, especially someone that’s a young family like them,” he said, “That’s really going to be devastation, seeing five caskets at one time.”
It is believed Bailey was driving under the influence when he struck the vehicle carrying the Abbas family, according to Fayette County Coroner Gary Ginn. Toxicology results were pending, he said.
A witness to the crash, Kenneth DeGraaf, told LEX 18 Bailey’s pickup truck nearly hit him.
“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.”
Abbas family friend Sam Baydoun told FOX 2 Detroit, “I hope this tragedy can send a real strong message to people who drink and drive.”
More than 1,000 people went to the Islamic Center of America Sunday to pay their respects for the Abbas family, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Others took to social media to send condolences to those who knew the Abbas family. Executive Warren C. Evans of Wayne County, Mich., said he was heartbroken by the news.
“The Abbas family were Northville residents and active members of the community,” Evans said. “My family’s thoughts and prayers are with the Abbas family’s loved ones today as they grieve after this senseless tragedy.”
David Wood, the chief medical officer at Beaumont Health, said the hospital is reeling.
“(Rima) was a caring mother and a dedicated family practice physician,” Wood stated. “Our hearts go out to all of her family, friends and patients during this difficult time.”
Lexington police are searching for anyone who saw Bailey’s white Chevy pickup before the crash. Witnesses were asked to call the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 859-258-3663.