The woman on trial for criminal negligence causing death in the 2017 traffic crash that killed Travis Selje, 17, in Cloverdale was found to have the drug oxycodone in her blood, the court heard Monday.
The RCMP sample did not establish how recently the drug had been taken.
Rituraj Kaur Grewal, who was 24 at the time of the crash, is being tried in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster during a hearing that is expected to run from Feb. 8 to Feb. 26. She is accused of criminal negligence causing death in the May 3, 2017 traffic crash in Cloverdale that killed Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary student Travis Selje, who was an up-and-coming soccer star. The court heard that it took emergency responders 45 minutes to extract Selje from the car. He was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital suffering from multiple blunt force injuries.
The court heard he never regained consciousness after the crash and was taken off life support two days later, surrounded by his family.
The crash was at 64th Avenue and 176th Street. The Honda Prelude the teen was driving was stopped at the intersection when it was hit from behind by a black Cadillac driven by Grewal. A friend was with him in the car. The force of the impact pushed the Prelude forward, causing it to crash with a white Kia SUV driven by Gary Mordecai. The Prelude then hit a tree, near a sidewalk.
After hitting the Prelude, the court heard, the Cadillac continued onto a raised centre median and then into oncoming traffic, resulting in a head-on collision with a Mazda Protege. Grewal was charged in 2018 with criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle causing death, criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm in the case of Mordecai, and failing to remain at the scene of a collision.
The court heard all vehicles involved were mechanically inspected and it was determined they had all been in proper operating condition.
Witness Gregory Nelson Toews told the court he was heading east on 64th Avenue in his minivan, with his wife and daughter, when he glanced down at his driver’s side mirror and saw a black car come up “very quickly” to his bumper.
“I believe it was a Cadillac,” he said.
“I thought it might strike my vehicle,” he said. “It could have been anywhere from inches to a number of feet.”
He said he swerved to the right to avoid getting hit as the Cadillac passed him in the left lane. Toews said the Cadillac swerved “to make its way through other vehicles,” changing lanes and as it continued it hit another vehicle. “It was either in the side or the back.” He told the court he asked his wife to dial 911 as he tried to get the Cadillac’s licence plate number.
“We lost sight of it,” he said of the car. Shortly after that, he added, they came upon a “major accident scene” with an “awful lot of debris,” and parked to help. He saw the Cadillac stopped there.
“I don’t know if I saw her in the car or as the person was leaving the car,” he said. He described the driver as a “young South East Asian female.
“I believe she appeared to be in a state of shock,” Toews said.
Witness Tania Louise Nagy told the court she’d been out for dinner with her husband and her parents that evening and was driving down 64th Avenue, with her husband as passenger. They were near 168th Street when her husband yelled “Watch out” as a Cadillac swerved into their lane in front of them. “So we slammed on our brakes and then the vehicle again came out of our lane and went into the right hand lane and then again passed into the left hand lane.”
She saw no brake lights or signals, she said. She said she tried to get its licence plate number.
Nagy testified she had to again apply her brakes because “someone had been hit” in front of them. She said she didn’t see the collision because several cars were ahead of them.
“It was constantly in and out of traffic,” Nagy said of the Cadillac. “Like, no regard for other vehicles, just in and out, no brake lights, no signals. It was quite odd, actually.”
She lost sight of the Cadillac, she told the court, until she saw it down the road, in the centre of the intersection of 176th Street and 64th Avenue. Nagy said she pulled into a gas station to see if she could help the people in the Prelude.
“That’s when I came upon a young fellow walking around without his shoes on.” She asked him if he’d been in the Prelude and he replied yes, he was.
The court heard, as part of an agreed-upon admission of facts, Constable David Smith was the first cop at the scene. He found Selje amid “extensive damage” to the driver’s side of the Prelude. He said the teen was pressed up against the steering wheel, with his legs pinched between the dash and the driver’s seat. According to Surrey firefighter Brian Reimer, emergency responders had to remove the roof, doors and windshield, partially disassemble the dashboard and cut off the steering wheel to extract the teenager from the car.
Selje’s death tore a hole in the community. The 1,095-seat Cloverdale Baptist Church was filled to capacity on May 17, 2017 as mourners celebrated the straight-A honour roll student’s life.
“There’s no such thing as closure, either,” his father Miki Selje told the Now-Leader before the trial. “People always say, ‘Oh, you’re looking for closure.’ No. There’s no such thing as closure. It’s a wound that will never close, so there’s no closure.”
“My soul is gone,” he said. “I am no longer a whole person.”
According to Travis Selje’s obituary, he was in the Whitecaps residency program and in 2016 returned to the Surrey United SC U16/U18 squad while also being a member of Team BC Soccer, with which he was to go to the Canada Games in August 2017.
The trial continues as the court was expected to hear from more civilian witnesses on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and police officers on Thursday.