Inquiry into death of twins on Olympic bobsled track hears from track manager
By The Canadian Press
CALGARY – The manager of the track where teenage twins died during an after-hours bobsled run at Canada Olympic Park says he was not aware of anyone else sneaking in while he’s been in charge.
“I have not been made aware of any unauthorized use of the track, nor would I tolerate it,” Tyler Seitz told a fatality inquiry Tuesday into the deaths of Evan and Jordan Caldwell in February 2016.
Seitz said he was familiar with the track – one of two in Canada – as he twice competed in luge in the Olympics and worked at the facility for six years. He said heard rumours of people sneaking in at night throughout his career. “But I had no participation or direct knowledge of it.”
The inquiry is scheduled to visit Canada Olympic Park later Tuesday afternoon. The boys’ parents, Jason and Shauna Caldwell, were in court, but weren’t planning to attend the tour.
The 17-year-old twins were part of a larger group that snuck onto the grounds of the WinSport facility with plastic sleds and headed down the icy track, which was built for the 1988 Olympics.
They hit a gate, set up to divide the bobsled and luge runs, at high speed and died almost instantly – six other young men were taken to hospital.
The inquiry previously heard three boys involved in the fatal accident had done a similar late-night run down the track nearly two weeks earlier – one of them in a kayak. Nothing seemed amiss with the track the morning after that excursion, Seitz said.
Seitz said the barricade was put in place at the point where the luge and bobsled tracks merge so that each is narrow enough to ensure sleds don’t veer out of line and lose control, he said.
He said to his knowledge, no other sliding tracks in the world have barriers like that, which he likened to a railway switch.
The Caldwell twins had previously worked as ambassadors at the park’s sliding track. Seitz said that would have involved greeting guests, administering waivers, fitting helmets and showing a safety video.
The boys’ father said outside court Monday that the pair loved life and snuck onto the track with their friends to have some fun.
“They had gained a certain amount of familiarity and just enough comfort to believe that it was safe and clearly had no understanding that this barrier was a potential risk to life,” Jason Caldwell said.
The inquiry led by Judge Margaret Keelaghan will not assign legal responsibility, but she may recommend ways to prevent similar deaths.
Signage and fencing were increased after the accident, but Seitz said he can’t think of anything more that could be done. He said fencing off the track to deter intruders is not feasible, as medics would not be able to quickly reach an injured athlete.
Seitz said there’s no issue with the facility’s safety culture.
“I believe that everyone is very well-educated and understanding of the safety procedures and the hazards that they take on, on a daily basis,” Seitz said.
He said sports that involve zooming down an icy chute at 130 kilometres an hour are inherently risky.
“We have many procedures and many policies to mitigate the risks and to make it as safe as possible.”