'He was my soul': Trial begins for Surrey woman charged in crash that killed young athlete
VANCOUVER -- The last time Sara Selje spoke with her younger brother Travis, he asked her to help him with his math homework for the first time.
“He was a smart kid, he never needed help with homework, much less math,” she recalled of the straight-A student. “It felt nice that he needed me.”
She remembered how the 17-year-old called out when he left the house for soccer practice that day, and said "I love you" as he left.
“He was a child when he was taken away,” she said. “I just want him back.”
A trial got underway Monday in New Westminster court for a Surrey woman charged in connection with a crash that fatally injured the beloved brother, son, and skilled young athlete who was a member of the Whitecaps residency program.
Rituraj Kaur Grewal stood in court and pleaded not guilty to three charges, including criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle causing death.
Prosecutor Kelly Johnston said Travis Selje’s car was stopped at an intersection at 64th Avenue and 176th Street in Surrey at about 9 p.m. on May 3, 2017, as he drove back from practice with a friend.
Johnston said Selje’s silver 2001 Honda Prelude was struck from behind by a black 2013 Cadillac ATS.
“The force of the impact pushed the Prelude forward, causing it to collide with a white Kia SUV,” Johnston said. “The Prelude then came to a rest into a tree on the south sidewalk of 64th Avenue.”
Johnston said the Cadillac ended up in a head-on collision with another vehicle after continuing onto the centre median and then into oncoming traffic.
Johnston said firefighters worked to free the teen from the badly damaged car for about 45 minutes, and had to remove the roof, doors and windshield.
He said Selje was taken to hospital with multiple injuries, but never regained consciousness, and was taken off life support two days later.
Johnston told the court blood samples taken from Grewal and analyzed by the RCMP National Forensic Laboratory revealed the presence of oxycodone.
“Due to insufficient sample size, a quantitative analysis was not able to be performed,” he said. “How recently oxycodone was used could not be determined.”
The first two witnesses called by the Crown testified about seeing a black Cadillac on 64th Avenue before the fatal crash.
Gregory Toews testified he saw it coming up behind him.
“It was very close,” he said. “I thought it might strike my vehicle.”
Toews testified he saw it hit another vehicle in front of them, and then keep driving.
Witness Tania Nagy testified she had to slam on the brakes when a black Cadillac suddenly came into their lane.
“It went right directly in front of us,” she said. “It was coasting in and out of traffic. Like, no regard for other vehicles just in and out, no brake lights, no signals...quite odd actually.”
Selje’s father Miki told CTV News the teen was "fair, he was honest, he looked out for everybody."
“I wake up in horror knowing I will never see my son again, hear his laughter,” he said. “He was a great human being. He was my soul. My soul is gone.”
Selje’s sister has a pair of tattoos in her younger brother’s memory, including the Roman numerals for three and five on her wrist. They reflect his jersey numbers, three and 35, the day he was born, March 5, and also the day of the crash and his death.
“He had so many options to where his future could have gone and where he could have gone, and what he could have achieved in his life,” she said, and added her brother was humble, hard-working, and made friends easily.
“I miss my little brother more than anything can describe,” she said. “Hug your kids, hug your parents, hug your siblings, cause you don’t know when they’re going to be gone.”
The trial is scheduled for 14 days.