Fresh flowers, a soccer jersey and other items grace the roadside memorial for Travis Selje at 64th Avenue and 176th Street, the intersection in Cloverdale where the teen died in May of 2017. The cross was made his father, Miki, a machinist by trade. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

EXCLUSIVE

Two years since teen soccer player’s death, a Surrey family’s pain persists

Memorial ‘TS3’ tournament planned at Cloverdale park where Travis Selje spent his final hour conscious

At his family home in Surrey, Travis Selje is everywhere, yet nowhere.

Reminders of a teenager taken too soon are visible immediately, upon entry at the front door.

Framed soccer and baseball jerseys line the wall up the stairs leading to Travis’ bedroom, virtually untouched since that fateful evening two years ago Friday (May 3).

A blue hoodie of his also rests untouched on a newel post where he left it, at the top of the stairs outside his trophy-filled room. On an opposite wall, a framed collection of photos includes images of Travis in every grade through school, with a blank space for the Grade 12 year he never experienced.

Outside, there’s a soccer net and artificial turf he never got to use.

“That was for him to train on, and that net, we assembled that the day before he died,” lamented his father, Miki.

“He wanted it, so we ordered it, put it together on the Tuesday, and on Wednesday he was dead. And I can’t take it down.”

A framed collection shows photos of Travis Selje in every grade through school, with a blank space for the Grade 12 year he never experienced. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

At around 9 p.m. on May 3, 2017, Travis Malcolm Selje – pronounced SELL-yay –was on his way home from a soccer practice when a speeding Cadillac slammed into his Honda Prelude, which was stopped at a red light, heading east.

The 17-year-old, a high-level athlete and straight-A student, succumbed to his massive injuries at Royal Columbian Hospital two days later.

Last October, Surrey resident Rituraj Kaur Grewal, 24, was charged in connection with the crash, her next day in court to come next year.

READ MORE: Young woman charged in Surrey crash that killed Travis Selje, 17.

“There’s no excuse,” Miki said. “It’s like pulling a trigger of a gun, as far as I’m concerned.”

“It’s why we don’t call it an accident, we call it a crime,” added Travis’ mother, Carola.

Near the site of the crash, on the southwest corner of 64th Avenue and 176th Street, a roadside memorial includes a white metal cross built by Miki, a machinist by trade.

“That was the hardest thing I ever did,” he said in a quavering voice while seated on his home’s cozy backyard patio, which the family had built partly as a safe haven for Travis and his older sister, Sara, to socialize with friends.

On a sunny morning last week, the heartbroken Selje family – Miki, Carola and their daughter Sara, along with Miki’s brother Markus and family friend Angie Suomi – gathered there to speak to a reporter for the first time since Travis’ death, to talk about a soccer tournament planned in his honour this spring and also about a foundation launched in his name.

They also shared fond memories about Travis, the ultra-competitive athlete and neat-freak student who somehow found time to hold down a pair of part-time jobs – at the Fast Track go-kart place in Langley and also at the Ace Hardware store on Cloverdale’s main drag, not far from the home Travis had known since birth.

Carola remembers her son as a hard-working boy who excelled at soccer and pretty much everything else he set his mind to, including the game of baseball. One day, at the age of 12, Travis had to choose between the two sports when operators of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ youth program came calling.

“He decided with a heavy heart to focus on soccer,” Carola remembers. “He tried to play baseball for another year after that, but it didn’t quite work, just not enough time.”

Travis Selje in action with the Whitecaps youth soccer program. (submitted photo)

For his Grade 10 year, Travis commuted daily to Burnaby Central Secondary for classes with the other young Whitecaps prospects.

“Every morning he left at 5:30 and didn’t get home until 7, and he kept straight-As and never complained once,” Miki said.

“For a 15-year-old kid, that’s pretty good.”

Four years into it, with injuries mounting and change in the air, Travis left the Whitecaps program to return to Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, much closer to home.

At age 16, he was also again positioned as centre-back defender with Surrey United, the club where he began playing the game as a five-year-old, in 2005.

“He was just excelling, and loved it,” Carola recalled. “So this was in Grade 11, when universities had approached him already, about going to this place or that place, so he said he would make his decision after playing in the Canada Games that August, with Team BC.

“We were talking about it, all three of us,” she said, gesturing toward her husband, her eyes dewy.

“He never got to make the decision.”

Carola stopped talking, for a brief moment of silence in the conversation.

In the distance, a siren.

“Do you hear that?” she asked. “You probably don’t hear those sirens right now,” she continued, “but you have no idea what we’re going through. I hear them and I’m right back there, on that day it happened. I hear them every day.”

Cigarette in hand, Miki nodded in agreement.

“I even asked the police to stop using their sirens around here, because I just can’t hear them,” he said. “I know they can’t do that, but it just drives me nuts.”

Travis Selje with Rex, the family dog he got to enjoy for the final six months of his life. (submitted photo)

Back to the subject of Travis and soccer, his parents say he did not see himself playing pro.

“He didn’t talk about it, no,” Miki related. “And I think he was a better baseball player than a soccer player, but soccer was a better opportunity at the time, and for me it was a way for him to get into scholarships, an education, and he knew education came first, too. Soccer was a way for him to get that.”

Carola said Travis was working hard to graduate several months early, in January of 2018.

“We didn’t know which university he’d go to,” she said, “but we wanted to keep him in Canada, and maybe that was going to be back east somewhere.”

He wanted to be in business, or accounting.

“He loved money,” Sara added with a smile. “He had options. He was really smart.”

With the help of Suomi and others, the local soccer community will come together on June 2 for the inaugural TS3 Inspires tournament, created as a fun-filled day for preteen players on 80 teams to celebrate Travis’ life, in a six-on-six format.

Naturally, the games will be played at Cloverdale Athletic Park, the place where Travis spent his final hour conscious.

“Surrey United approached us that they wanted to do a tournament in Travis’ name, and we never thought something like that would happen, and so fast,” Carola explained. “So they took it in their own hands, with people’s help – so many volunteers and great people, and the community just wants to help and contribute and honour Travis, and that is so touching.

“From the day this happened,” she added, “we’ve had overwhelming support from people, some we didn’t even know, with flowers and cards, letters. We want to thank everyone.… We didn’t even know how to get through a day, the next minute, nothing, without our friends.”

homelessphoto

PHOTO: Framed photos of Travis Selje and other items fill the top of a dresser in his bedroom. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

The tournament website (ts3inspires.com) includes several tributes to Travis written by former coaches and others who remember watching him play soccer, including Jeff Clarke, Surrey United’s technical director.

“He was a champion and true competitor and a kid that truly loved every second of his sports experiences,” Clarke wrote. “Surrey United SC celebrated all of his successes in his teenage years with Whitecaps FC and were proud to see him return to SUSC at U17. In the short period that he returned to the club before his tragic passing, Travis inspired his 2000 (birth year) teammates and many of the young players that emulated him in the club. He also set a standard of being a great teammate and competitor that will influence SUSC teams and players positively for years to come.”

The website also includes video of Travis in action on the soccer pitch.

“A player he had some good battles with, his dad always shot video of the games, of his son playing – every single game,” Miki explained. “They’re from Coquitlam, and he put that together and gave it to me. He went though every video he had and picked out highlights of Travis playing.”

With Surrey United’s BCSPL team in his final season, Travis wore #3, so the TS3 Inspires tournament name is combination of his initials and his jersey number.

Travis was born on March 5, 2000, and his jersey with the Whitecaps youth program was #35, a representation of his birth month and day. That Whitecaps jersey number, with the word “Selje” above it, is tattooed on Miki’s back, life-sized and in the same font.

Fighting tears while standing outside his son’s bedroom, Miki pulled up his shirt to reveal the breathtaking artwork.

“On jersey day or whatever, people ask where mine is. Well, it’s always with me, right there on my back.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Four activists face charges linked to 2019 Abbotsford hog-farm protest

Mischief and break-and-enter charges laid for incidents on four separate days prior to the protest

Three men face attempted murder charges after Harrison Hot Springs stabbing

Man, 24, sent to hospital with life-threatening injuries following attack Wednesday

‘Tiny home’ being built for Abbotsford woman with severe allergies

Online campaign raises $59,000 for custom cargo trailer for Katie Hobson

Chilliwack children can get tested locally, Fraser Health confirms

Erroneous information online and via 811 has many families driving to Abbotsford for testing

Face masks will be mandatory for customers at all Walmart locations

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Wrong-way driver triggers multi-vehicle collision on Highway 99 in South Surrey

Police received multiple reports of vehicle heading north in southbound lanes

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Most Read