Calgary

Caleb Hettinga, bobsled track accident survivor, 'determined to get better'

Caleb Hettinga suffered critical injuries when he and seven other teens climbed over a fence at Calgary's Canada Olympic Park in the wee hours of Feb. 6 and went down the run on three plastic sleds.

Family credits deep faith for teen's strength during lengthy recovery

Caleb Hettinga suffered critical injuries when he climbed over a fence at Canada Olympic Park and went down the bobsled run on plastic sleds with seven other teens, two of whom were killed. (YouTube/Screenshot)

Relatives of one of the survivors of a horrific crash during an after-hours visit to a Calgary luge-bobsled track are crediting the family's deep faith for his strength during his lengthy recovery.

Caleb Hettinga suffered critical injuries when he and seven other teens climbed over a fence at Canada Olympic Park in the wee hours of Feb. 6 and went down the run on three plastic sleds.

In a video posted to social media, Caleb's grandfather, Larry Sagert, told parishioners at their church that the youths had no idea there was a barricade on the run, saying "five of the eight boys were clotheslined by a heavy chain."

Caleb, himself, also addressed parishioners via video, thanking them for their prayers and support.

'Smashed every bone'

Sagert said the impact "smashed every bone" of his grandson's face, broke the base of his skull and cost him the vision in his right eye.

Twin 17-year-old brothers Evan and Jordan Caldwell, who had worked at the facility the previous summer, were killed.

Caleb's uncle, Mark Hettinga of Saskatoon, said Tuesday that the 18-year-old got out of hospital a few weeks ago and is continuing to recover at home.

He plans to hold a silent auction this weekend to raise money to help out his brother's family, which is facing massive medical expenses.

"It's to raise money for the whole family, for all the major expenses they're going to have to come across — the dental, the orthodontist and physio, and all those that aren't covered."

The Caldwell Fund, a fundraising effort by the relatives of the two boys who died, has also been hard at work to help out; it has raised $46,665 to date.

'He's a fighter'

Mark said Caleb's "whole face pretty much had to be rebuilt" and he continues to wear a halo to support his head because of the neck fracture, although he is able to walk and the prognosis for recovery is good.

"He's pretty good," Mark said of his nephew. "He's a fighter, he's determined to come through and get back on track. He's determined to get better."

The family has relied on the help of friends and their church. Caleb's parents, Justin and Tammy Hettinga, have worked as missionaries in Peru while Justin Hettinga has also worked and at the Calgary headquarters of Wycliffe Canada.

"It's been a challenge, to say the least," said Mark. "But they're getting through it, day by day. Their faith has got them through a lot of it."

Spirituality 

In his address to the church, Caleb's grandfather remarked that the teen did not lose consciousness at any point in his ordeal and remembers praying, "Lord, I'm ready," because he thought death was at hand.

Mark agreed that Caleb has relied on his spirituality throughout his recovery.

"Without it, we'd be a lot more concerned, I think," he said. "It's given him motivation and comfort. Obviously it's a very emotional event, with everything going on, so just having that comfort and peace made a real different for him."

Police have said no one will face criminal charges in the incident. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled multiple blunt force trauma was the cause of the deaths and drugs or alcohol were not believed to have been factors.

The other boys who survived suffered a range of injuries, but Caleb's were the most critical.

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