Friends says street racing may have caused fiery crash that killed Montreal teen

·3 min read
Friends says street racing may have caused fiery crash that killed Montreal teen
Veronica Gashi, 15, was in a car that was hit while parked on the shoulder of Highway 40 Saturday. She died and the driver who allegedly caused the wreck may be facing charges. (Drita Gerbeshi/Facebook - image credit)
Veronica Gashi, 15, was in a car that was hit while parked on the shoulder of Highway 40 Saturday. She died and the driver who allegedly caused the wreck may be facing charges. (Drita Gerbeshi/Facebook - image credit)

Raphaëlle Grimaud had been friends with Veronica Gashi since kindergarten, growing up together as neighbours.

But now Veronica, just 15, is gone — killed in a car wreck on Highway 40 on Saturday.

"I cried a lot yesterday but it's like it can't come out anymore," said Grimaud, who is also 15.

"She was like, just a good person."

The fiery collision happened at around 6:30 p.m. near the St-Charles exit in Kirkland on Montreal's West Island, according to provincial police.

They say four vehicles were involved and two caught fire.

Raphaëlle's sister, Sarah Clément, knows the driver who was with Veronica that day. She says Charbel Saliba came to the house on Sunday to explain what happened.

"As he was driving, Charbel, he saw an accident so he stopped, like, in front of the accident," recounted Sarah.

Charbel said he told Gashi to stay in the car while he went to investigate but then another driver careened into the stopped vehicles along the shoulder.

That caused a chain reaction and Gashi wound up trapped in Charbel's smashed car, Sarah said.

Images captured at the scene show one car was violently mashed into twisted, charred metal and left on its roof, while another's back end was shorn off.

WATCH | Sisters talk of their friend who died in a car wreck:

Charbel used a tool to pry the door open because it was smashed, she said.

"He took her out of the car and he did like CPR and he tried to help her," Sarah said, but Gashi did not survive the wreck.

Charbel told Sarah that before the crash, the two had stopped briefly in a West Island parking lot where there was a gathering of drivers who were doing stunts.

Gashi was uncomfortable with the situation and she and Charbel left the parking lot, Sarah said.

Carbel told Sarah that it was actually one of the cars from the parking lot that slammed into them.

Provincial police investigating incident

Sgt. Stéphane Tremblay, a spokesperson for the Sûreté du Québec, said it is too early to confirm if street racing led to the collision.

Police do have a suspect in the collision who could be charged with dangerous driving causing death, but that suspect is still in hospital.

"We have a suspect that's still in the hospital, he's gonna meet with the investigators when his health condition will improve," said Tremblay.

Raphaëlle Grimaud (left) had been friends with Véronica Gashi since kindergarten. Gashi died Saturday when the car she was sitting in was struck.
Raphaëlle Grimaud (left) had been friends with Véronica Gashi since kindergarten. Gashi died Saturday when the car she was sitting in was struck.(Submitted by Raphaëlle Grimaud)

Regardless of what that investigation reveals, Tremblay said nobody should be racing cars on Highway 40.

Raphaëlle and Sarah feel the same way. They say it is one thing to show off your custom car, but the province's highways are not race tracks.

Sarah said, if somebody is responsible for this wreck, she doesn't want revenge, but she would like to see charges laid so they can "realize the consequences of their actions."

Street racing increasingly common during pandemic

The pandemic has led to a 357 per cent increase in stunt driving between March and June in the Toronto area, according to the Toronto Police Service.

Police there say they issued 443 racing and/or stunt driving tickets during that time, which is nearly 350 more tickets than they gave out during those months in 2019.

And on Sunday night Laval, more than 100 people left a gathering with tickets for breaking public health rules. About 200 young people were caught hanging out in a parking lot known for car racing and reckless driving.

Laval's Lt. Jean-François Gignac said police want to send the message that this type of gathering won't be tolerated this year.