A heartbroken family in East Vancouver was unable to find out until Thursday afternoon where their son’s body is, or when it might be retrieved for burial.
As Muslims, their religion demands burial as soon as possible, and their son died Tuesday after someone fleeing Metro Vancouver Transit Police rammed his Toyota Yaris.
Olyad Suleiman, the legal name of the young man who goes by Samir Ali, had just graduated from Britannia High School and had a $50,000 scholarship to attend the University of BC in the fall.
He and an unidentified passenger were returning from playing soccer and were stopped at a red light when a Nissan Altima conducting a traffic stop at 10th Avenue and 6th Street in New Westminster crashed into their car around 11 p.m.
Suleiman and his fellow football player/passenger were pronounced dead at Royal Columbian Hospital.
Suleiman’s family, however, had yet to see their son’s body, not yet knowing as of Thursday afternoon where their son’s body was.
“No one has come to help them or even explain to the family what is going on, where the son is,” Ariadne Armond, a neighbor of the Suleimans, said Thursday afternoon. “The mom is devastated, there is no Victim Services, no one came.
“He was a very good boy, a very good example for the youth of the community.”
Olyad was the eldest of seven children. The family lives in the Strathcona neighborhood, after emigrating from Kenya six years ago.
“The family only knows what they saw on the news,” Armond said. “They are a nice family, just because they are immigrants, poor (they deserve answers), they have a very clean house and they are very nice people.”
The last contact Olyad’s family had with him was a phone conversation with his father around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
“When his father called back around 11, it went to voice mail,” said Olyad’s friend, Abdi Ahmedyasin.
At 1 a.m. Wednesday, the family was frantic.
Vancouver police had told them to wait for news, but Olyad’s friends joined the family as they went first to the police station on Cambie Street, then split into taxis to tour the hospital’s emergency departments.
“It was not like Olyad not to call,” Ahmedyasin said. “It wasn’t like him to be out so late.”
A group was heading to the Edmonds Community Center in Burnaby to see if Olyad’s Toyota Yaris might be in the parking lot when they encountered police at the scene of the accident and were directed to Royal Columbian. By then, it was probably 3 or 4 a.m., Ahmedyasin said, and the family still had no information.
“They were like, ‘We can’t tell you anything, just hang out, someone will come talk to you.’ Every hour we came back and the same thing”.
A Nissan Altima sped away when Traffic Police tried to pull it over Tuesday night, const. Amanda Steed said in a press release after the fatal accident.
“A short time later, the vehicle was located on fire, after causing a multi-vehicle collision,” the statement said.
Seven ambulances and a supervisor responded to the crash at the New West-Burnaby border, BC Emergency Health Services said, and three people were taken to hospital, two in critical condition.
The driver and passenger of the fleeing Altima were arrested. Charges of prohibited driving, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, and fleeing from police have been recommended.
Steed said the Burnaby RCMP felony unit is assisting with the investigation and the BC Independent Investigations Office (IIO) will investigate the police actions.
Postmedia News requested details on why the Traffic Police tried to stop the Nissan and how the family can get help and answers.
“I am unable to provide further details on the reason for the traffic stop, as the IOI is handling that part of the investigation,” Steed replied via email. “Any other questions can be sent to them.”
the office of independent investigations said it is investigating the same questions Postmedia submitted, but because of that investigation and pending criminal charges, the office is unable to comment, a spokeswoman said.
Anyone who saw the crash or has dash cam footage and hasn’t contacted police is asked to call 604-515-8300 (or text 87.7.77).
— With files from Joe Ruttle and Tiffany Crawford