Calgary bobsled death inquiry recommends infrared technology, safety audits

A judge found the deaths of 17-year-old twins Evan and Jordan Caldwell were accidental and caused by blunt-force head and neck trauma

Infrared technology and signs warning of trespassing penalties are among a judge’s recommendations for preventing tragedies like a fatal 2016 bobsled crash that killed teenage twins during an after-hours run down the track at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park.

A fatality inquiry by provincial court Judge Margaret Keelaghan found the deaths of 17-year-old twins Evan and Jordan Caldwell were accidental and caused by blunt-force head and neck trauma.

“The young men involved in this incident were thrill-seeking youth whose ill-conceived risk-taking resulted in unspeakable tragedy,” she wrote in her report, dated Sept. 24 and released Monday.

“It is important, however, to remember that the two promising young men who passed away were bright, talented members of their community, loved by their family and their friends, who did not involve themselves with drugs or alcohol and who, before the incident occurred, had spent the evening at their church youth group.”

The Caldwell twins and six friends climbed over a six foot fence at the park with plastic sleds and a plan to slide down the bobsled track, which was built for the 1988 Olympics. But the group didn’t know there was a barrier in place meant to divide the bobsled and luge tracks, as well as a chain strung across to keep the barricade in place.

The twins, on separate sleds, were killed almost instantly after striking the barrier. Four others in the group were seriously injured.

Keelaghan heard evidence in April from police, several representatives of the facility owner WinSport and one of the boys who was there during the crash.

Keelaghan noted park owner WinSport has already taken numerous steps to address security concerns, including improved signage, fencing and patrols. The divider between the bobsled and luge tracks is now kept in a neutral position at the end of the day and the chain has been replaced with a plastic mechanism that keeps the barrier in place.

The judge made five recommendations to build on WinSport’s work.

She said WinSport should continue to look for technology to improve safety, “including the potential use of infrared technology at the top and down the track that might trip an alarm and alert security and/or activate lights.

“These measures could act as a deterrent.”

She said safety audits, like one done by WinSport after the crash, should take place regularly.

In addition to signs already up that warn of “risk of injury and death,” Keelaghan said there should also ones detailing penalties for trespassing violations.

She also recommended more cameras at the gates and increased safety training and education for both staff and the public.

Keelaghan thanked the boys’ parents for being in court for the inquiry in April and commended the “strength and grace” they displayed. Jason and Shauna Caldwell said at the time that they didn’t wish to place blame, but that they wanted to help prevent similar deaths in future.

WinSport accepts all of Keelaghan’s recommendations, said spokesman Dale Oviatt.

“We confirm that we have implemented or will be implementing all of the recommendations in the report,” he said in an emailed statement.

“Once again, all of us at WinSport want to offer our thoughts to the families affected by this tragic incident.”

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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