‘She was my hero’: Sister remembers woman who drowned in Surf City

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — One family has been mourning the loss of a Wilmington native who drowned last weekend in Surf City.

The family of Kim Sabbagh, 44, celebrated her life this week. Sabbagh grew up in Wilmington and was most recently living with her family in Bear Creek.

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“For all intents and purposes, she was my hero, my rescuer,” Sabbagh’s sister Angela Holt said. “I looked up to her.”

While her sister may have been younger, Holt says Sabbagh was her inspiration.

“If she knew you, she loved you,” Holt said. “She loved her family. She would do anything for anyone.”

Holt never thought she’d lose her sister this way, until her family got an unexpected call from the police last weekend.

“That there was an accident, and that EMS was on the scene, and that they were trying to provide life saving measures,” she said. “That’s all they could divulge over the phone.”

Holt, who lives in Wilmington, says she raced up to Surf City when she got the news, but it was too late.

The Surf City Fire Department was called about a swimmer in distress Saturday afternoon near North Shore Drive. They say crews tried to resuscitate Sabbagh, but she didn’t make it.

Holt says her sister was visiting their family’s beach house in Topsail.

“She was an experienced boogie boarder, swimmer,” Holt said. “She was also very safety conscious. We grew up around the water, and we knew how to spot a rip current. But the conditions on that day were kind of rough because there had been a storm out at sea.”

Holt says it just seemed like a freak accident. She says bystanders who tried to help Sabbagh said she was in the shallow water, but suddenly got swept away in the water.

“It just wasn’t meant to be,” she said.

Holt is now sharing her sister’s legacy how she says Sabbagh would want to be remembered.

“Her husband, my brother in law, he put up some of her photographs he had framed, and he said, ‘She was a talented photographer, a talented artist, a talented pianist,'” Holt said. “But she never showed it off. She never wanted to be in the lime light. And when she was helping people and animals, it was behind the scenes.”

She says Sabbagh went to UNCW, and was a nurse for years. Holt says she had a love of helping not only people, but animals.

Sabbagh also leaves behind her three children.

“I know her kids will remember her as being fun mom,” Holt said.

For Holt, she’ll remember Sabbagh for many things, but especially as her hero.

“She was a thousand the person I could ever hope to be, but it gives me something to aspire to,” she said.

In honor of Sabbagh’s love for animals and in lieu of flowers, her family is asking for donations to be made in her name to Carolina Coonhound Rescue and Holly’s Nest Animal Rescue.