‘One of the worst days of my life’: Family of woman killed in wrong-way I-65 crash shares memories of her life

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 5:55 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT
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ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (WAVE) - Sometimes, people have memories time can never erase.

For Sufian Lutfi, one of those memories is the day his sister was born.

“I was there when she was born, you know, the day she was born,” Lutfi said. “So, I named her.”

Her name Duaa, meaning prayer in Arabic, was symbolic of the family’s strong Islamic roots, beginning in Palestine.

“She was a free-spirit, a risk-taker, you know,” Sufian Lutfi said.

Saturday, Lutfi’s sister’s spirit was taken.

According to Louisville Metro Police, Duaa Lutfi was driving back home to Elizabethtown on Interstate 65. At roughly 4 a.m., a 17-year-old suspected drunk driver entered the interstate in the wrong direction at Arthur Street and hit her car head on. Lutfi was taken to University Hospital and died. Two others in the car were injured.

The wrong-way driver who caused the crash was also brought to the hospital in critical condition, while the driver of the third car was uninjured.

Sufian Lutfi told WAVE 3 News he received news of the crash through his other sister Alaa Lutfi, who heard the news from a friend of Duaa’s. He said the family rushed to UofL Hospital, where they spent hours waiting for answers. Then, he said a doctor approached the family with a hospital chaplain.

“As we’re sitting there waiting, we’re just anxious,” Sufian Lutfi said. “And then, the doctor comes in, this is around 11 a.m. now, he tells me, ‘hey she didn’t make it.’ And, I knew it. I had a feeling. [To hear it though] was the worst news in the world. My father passed away in 2014, [and it was a] very similar feeling, like another one of us is gone. So, [it was] one of the worst days of my life, to be honest.”

The family, abiding by Islamic tradition, conducted both the funeral and burial Monday.

They spoke to WAVE 3 News Tuesday, clearly still grieving.

Sufian Lutfi told WAVE 3 News he was still thinking about holding his sister for the last time before burying her.

“She was in my arms last,” he said. “Islamic burials [are] different from most other burials. You go out like you came in .”

The Lutfis said their sister was a kind, loving 22-year old woman, someone willing to help a friend at all costs.

What’s left are pictures and memories of a young woman whose name, meaning prayer, is what the family has relied on to help them carry on.

“She was a loving, kind soul,” her sister said. “What happened to her, she didn’t deserve, but I feel like she’s in a better place now.”

The family also told WAVE 3 News the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy without the family’s permission. Per religious tradition, Muslims do not conduct autopsies.

WAVE 3 News reached out to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.

In a statement, Chief Deputy Coroner Scott Russ said:

“The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office realizes that this is a very personal and sensitive matter and some families may object to an autopsy.

Autopsies are necessary for us to perform a competent investigation and Kentucky law recognizes that the Coroner must have the authority to order an autopsy despite family objections. If families object to an autopsy for personal or religious reasons, we will discuss the issue and attempt to resolve the matter in a way that will provide families with peace of mind but still allow a thorough inquiry. Regrettably though, there are cases that we feel mandate an autopsy.

Our office takes religious considerations very seriously and many times a year we are able to meet the request of families and not conduct an autopsy due to religious considerations. In this case, with pending criminal charges and most likely a civil complaint as well, the decision was made to conduct an autopsy in this case. Each and every case has different sets of facts and circumstances.”

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