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Twins killed in Calgary bobsleigh accident were 'great kids'

A composite photo of twin brothers Jordan and Evan Caldwell, who died Feb. 6, 2016, in a tobogganing accident at a Calgary bobsled track

Caldwell family handout

Jordan and Evan Caldwell, red-headed teenage twins who volunteered with refugees and were Bible-camp counsellors, died after crashing into a barrier while sledding down Calgary's Olympic bobsleigh track in an after-hours excursion that left six other boys injured.

The two were found dead Saturday morning, around 1:30 a.m. They, along with the other six, slipped into Canada Olympic Park and rode their own sled down the bobsleigh track.

Jordan and Evan were 17, exceptional students and headed to university. Jordan could walk the dog on a unicycle. He disliked math but scored 100 per cent on the Grade 12 diploma exam. He was part of the Canadian Volunteers United In Action organization, which gives refugees and new Canadians rides when they need to visit doctors and dentists. Jordan wanted to attend the University of Western Ontario's Ivey Business School.

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Evan was part of a robotics competition. He scored 96 per cent on the math diploma exam, and Queen's University last week offered him a full scholarship.

He helped newly arrived Syrian refugees settle into their adopted country, playing the guitar and teaching songs to the newcomers at a Calgary refugee centre each week. Evan planned to pursue engineering followed by a physics degree, and was waiting to hear from other universities.

Both boys received straight As in school and played table tennis with their family – parents Jason and Shauna and sister Katie.

"We will miss these boys greatly and they will be missed," the Caldwells said in a statement Sunday. "We are at peace knowing that they both knew Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and saviour and that made all the difference while they lived, and in eternity where we will join them."

The teens hit a barrier separating the bobsleigh and luge tracks on the weekend. Security at WinSport, which operates Canada Olympic Park (COP), called emergency crews. The twins were dead at the scene and the other six had varying degrees of injury. Three were transported to the Foothills Medical Centre, and the other three to Rockyview General Hospital. One was in critical condition and the teens were "severely traumatized," Calgary Police Service's Duty Staff Sergeant Paul Wyatt told reporters Saturday.

COP is a sprawling complex and played host to a slew of events at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. The sliding track where the boys died is still part of the World Cup circuit, and elite athletes train on it. A small public ski hill sits in the middle of COP. The Olympic ski jumps, which are not open, stand on the top of the right side of the hill. Outdoor enthusiasts can zipline off the jumps in the summer. A 22-foot halfpipe is built into the left side of the ski slope and the bobsleigh track is to its left. The public can pay to bobsleigh in the summer and are accompanied by a professional bobsleigh pilot. COP also has hockey rinks, training facilities and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. Because of COP's size and purpose, intruders can easily access parts of the complex. Police have not said how the boys accessed the icy track.

Evan and Jordan both worked at COP last winter, welcoming guests and scanning tickets, their family said Sunday. WinSport is conducting its own investigation into the incident.

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Bradley Phoenix went to school with the Caldwell boys. "They always made jokes, but not at the expense of other people," he said, standing in front of a small memorial near the bottom of the bobsleigh track. There, mourners left a bouquet of white roses; peach tulips; white, yellow, blue, fuchsia and orange daisies; a small brown teddy bear wearing a purple Westmount Charter School hoodie; and a navy debate shirt from Ernest Manning High School.

Jordan served as Westmount's student president. His most memorable moment at the school was tied to music, according to a profile in his school's newspaper.

"Band camp for sure. Whether it's the legendary air-band competitions, the hot-sauce shot challenges, the card games, ah, it's just such a good time," Jordan told the paper last fall. Jordan also debated and acted as a Model United Nations diplomat.

Evan, meanwhile, moved from Westmount to Ernest Manning last year for its innovative pre-engineering program.

He left his mark on friends and strangers alike. At school, he took a sometimes playful approach to his duties making morning announcements over the PA system.

"Evan loved getting people together. He wanted to make any situation the best that it could be," said Nathan Bensler, one of Evan's lifelong friends. "He always made people feel good, and accepted and like they were having a good time."

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Both Evan and Jordan had a large and devoted circle of friends. "They loved so many people and so many people loved them," said Mr. Bensler, who is 19. "They were such great kids. It's not easy to say goodbye to these guys."

The twins were also active at the Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel in Calgary. They served in the youth ministry on Friday nights, running activities ranging from Bible study to dodge ball for junior high school students. During the summer, they worked with children as day-camp counsellors, said Quinn Davis, the executive pastor, who has known the brothers their entire lives.

"They were amazing young men who I would have been privileged to walk with for another 40 years," Mr. Davis said. "Jordan and Evan are deeply missed."

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About the Authors

Carrie Tait joined the Globe in January, 2011, mainly reporting on energy from the Calgary bureau. Previously, she spent six years working for the National Post in both Calgary and Toronto. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario and a bachelor’s degree in political studies from the University of Saskatchewan. More

Ingrid Peritz has been a Montreal-based correspondent for The Globe and Mail since 1998. Her reporting on the plight of Canadians suffering from the damaging effects of the drug thalidomide helped victims obtain federal compensation and earned The Globe and Mail a National Newspaper Award, Canadian Journalism Foundation award, and the Michener Award for public service. More

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