The director of Vancouver General Hospital’s epilepsy program says Rituraj Kaur Grewal’s behaviour as described by a couple of witnesses immediately after the crash that killed Cloverdale teenager Travis Selje was consistent with an epileptic seizure but he could not confirm she had one while she was driving.
Grewal, 26, is accused of criminal negligence causing death in the May 3, 2017 crash at the intersection of 64th Avenue and 176th Street in Cloverdale that killed the 17-year-old boy. She had been driving her dad’s Cadillac and was 22 at the time.
An RCMP forensic expert testified earlier during the trial, continuing in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, that the Cadillac was doing 142 km/h in a 60 km/h zone just prior to hitting Selje’s Honda Prelude.
Grewal testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision. Neurologist Dr. Yahya Aghakhani, who is also a clinical associate professor at UBC, was called as a witness for the defence on Friday and said Grewal had been referred to him as a patient by Surrey Dr. Gurwant Singh.
“When the patient has a seizure they lose their consciousness,” Aghakhani told the court. “Almost always they have some amnesia. But in her case, because she was involved in the accident, head trauma also can cause amnesia. If somebody has blows in the head, even if they don’t have a seizure, they can have amnesia. In her case, her amnesia alone is not sufficient enough to say for sure she had a seizure.”
Nevertheless, Aghakhani told the court, Grewal could have had a seizure that caused amnesia. He said it’s possible that with some focal, or partial seizures, even with impaired awareness, a person can drive for a while before having an accident, or none at all.
Justice Jeanne Watchuk asked the doctor if the driving is “normal” during a focal seizure. Aghakhani replied that some patients have described driving from “point A to point B” and later not knowing how they got there.
“They didn’t have an accident and they drove. They went from their workplace to home, they even parked their car in the garage, and they have no recollection of doing it.”
Aghakhani presented as an example of impaired awareness during a focal seizure, and being able to drive, an incident where one of his patients drove to Tim Hortons, bought coffee and then had no memory of it. He noted other medical conditions can cause this too, such as sleep deprivation, and sleep apnea. “They don’t get enough sleep – they may doze off during the driving and they may not remember.”
The Crown and defence have completed their cases and final submissions are expected to be heard on Wednesday. Watchuk has indicated she will reserve her decision to a date after that.