Edmonton - Donna Reed woke to a phone call in the middle of the night from a Fort McMurray, Alta., hospital Sunday.
Her husband Ben's groggy hello was met by uncontrolled sobbing. Her sister Laurie Beck, struggling to speak, told them that her twin boys William and James were dead.
"I woke up my family, woke up my children, packed a bag and came straight here," Reed said.
The family drove 6 1/2 hours from their Saskatchewan home to Fort McMurray without stopping.
Reed's husband drove while the children slept in the back.
Reed spent much of the journey reading her nephews' Facebook pages, taking what little solace she could from the outpouring of messages from friends and sleeping for brief moments when she could manage it.
"I'm in shock," she said.
"I'm angry and I'm hurt for my sister."
Police have been tight-lipped about the deaths, and the lack of information has frustrated the family. They still don't know how Will and James died, or why.
The boys were like older brothers to Reed's 16-year-old daughter Angela and 13-year-old son Shawn, and spent every summer and most holidays with her family on an acreage in Saskatchewan.
Officers were called to a Fort McMurray skateboard and sprinkler park, just after 11 p.m. Sunday for an assault, said Const. Dustin Greig of the Fort McMurray RCMP.
The two 17-year-old boys were taken to the Northern Lights Regional Hospital, where they were pronounced dead. The RCMP major crimes unit is assisting in the investigation, Greig said, and an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday. Police have not released the victim's names or how they died.
The identical twins were born premature at an Edmonton hospital. They lived briefly in Newfoundland before the family settled in Fort McMurray. Laurie raised her boys alone, Reed said, and worked hard to bring them up right in the rough northern city.
"People thought of them as rough boys, but they had the biggest hearts," she said. "They always protected my kids and always made sure they were OK. And they were loyal to their mom. They wouldn't let anyone say anything bad about her."
The boys attended Father Patrick Mercredi Community High school and were in Grade 11, said principal Gil Espejo. Students and staff were devastated when they learned the news Monday, one day before the final day of exams.
"We'd known the boys since they were in elementary school," he said. "We saw them grow up, grow older and into young men. . . . This is terrible news for us. We're a small catholic school. We're not used to this."