FAIRFIELD, Ohio – The family of a Fairfield couple killed by a wrong-way driver say they don’t have anger in their hearts for the driver and want to thank the community for its support.
"We forgive. That's the way we were brought up," said Hatum Shteiwi, who lost his sister and brother-in-law in the crash on Interstate 75 early Friday morning.
"We're not angry. We're sad. We're sad that it happened, but anger, no. My sister and brother-in-law would not want us to be angry. They taught us how to forgive."
Police say Halla Odeh Shteiwi, 55, and her husband, Nazih Shteiwi, 61, died when a Chevy Suburban going southbound in the northbound lanes crashed into their Audi A-8 as they were returning from a family gathering in Kentucky. The Shteiwis, who came from Jordan 40 years ago, have four children in college.
Video from traffic cameras shows the wrong-way driver going the wrong way in northbound lanes around the one-minute mark.
The family gathered again in Fairfield over the weekend to mourn them and comfort each other. Halla and Nazih were loving, caring people, Hatum said. They are a close family with deep faith in God, and together they will get through their suffering, he said.
He wanted to share the joy that Halla and Nazih brought to their family and friends.
"She's wonderful. She's really a wonderful sister. Caring. She loves people. She loves people more than she loves herself. She cares about the family deeply and she raised her kids the same way she was raised -- through the church and giving and caring about your neighbors more than you care about yourself," Hatum said.
"She was a wonderful, happy individual. She always had a smile on her face."
Nazih was the same way, he said.
"They were a perfect match for each other and God took them together because he don't want to separate them. That's the way we look at things. I don't know if that helps us any, but God took them together because they love each other and they don't want to be separated. I'm sure they're in heaven right now staying together.
"The one thing I will tell you that they left behind is the wonderful four kids they have. And the wonderful family that they kept behind. We will honor their legacy and memories and continue the path they set for us."
Hatum also passed along a message about drinking and driving.
"My message is to anybody -- please don't drink, drive, and if you know somebody that's drinking and driving, don't let them drive because you lose somebody, you destroy your family because of a second or two," Hatum said.
Police say the wrong-way driver was a local rapper, 30-year-old Kory Wilson , of Springfield Township, who also died in the collision. Wilson had been drinking too much and shouldn't have been driving, according to a Bengals player, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Speaking on Twitter, Kirkpatrick said he was a friend of Wilson and ran into him at a bar. Kirkpatrick said he blamed himself for not staying with Wilson and not allowing him to drive.
Kirkpatrick withheld comment Monday. "Not right now," he told WCPO. "I just want to show his family respect right now.”
Police have not said if alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash. Evendale Police Chief Neil Korte said the accident report could be finished within days, but toxicology tests will take eight to 10 weeks.
Maher Zarour said he cried when he heard the news. He runs the Roselawn Carry Out in Summit Plaza on Reading Road, and Nazih, who owned the small shopping center, was his landlord.
As Zarour waited on customers, he said Nazih accepted everyone as they are.
"He don't care what the people that's coming in the store are. It doesn't matter what's their religion or their color or something like that. He's good guy for everyone," Zarour said.
He said he greeted virtually everyone by name.
"It's not nickname. It's their name ... Everybody know him as good. Everybody like him."
"Really" Hatum said, "the way we're coping with this is enormous amount of support that we have got from the Cincinnati area - from the community, from the friends and the family. They kept us together.
"As my sister and her husband always taught us, we can stay strong with the family. We have to be strong for them and we'll get through this through faith and believing in God.
"We'd like to thank everybody that called us, emailed us, social media, the news outlets that helped to cover the story to know that we lost two wonderful people."
Visitation is 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at Webster Funeral Home, 3080 Homeward Way at Route 4, in Fairfield.
The funeral is 2 p.m. Tuesday at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, 7000 Winton Road, in Finneytown. Burial follows at Rose Hill Burial Park, 2421 Princeton Road, in Hamilton.
James Gist, 36, of Hamilton, was in the third car involved in the crash. He was transported to Mercy Fairfield with non-life threatening injuries.