Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadians dead in Thailand

Poisoning suspected in deaths of Quebec sisters

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MONTREAL -- The two Quebec sisters found dead Thursday night in a Thailand hotel room were well-known and popular in their hometown of Pohénégamook, Que., a rural area of 3,000 near the Maine border, the local mayor said.

Sisters Audrey and Noemi Belanger, 20 and 26, were victims of an apparent poisoning at the southern Thai resort of Phi Phi Island, Thai police say.

"They were two brilliant young girls, very involved in the community," Mayor Louise Labonte said Saturday.

She said they were always active in town events and worked in a grocery store owned by their father, Carl.

She said the sisters attended the local high school, École secondaire du Transcontinental, where Labonte was a librarian. The school has about 250 students.

The young women were studying at Université Laval.

Claudette Levasseur, a waitress at Restaurant du Moulin, said Noemi had worked for her when she was in charge of the municipal beach.

"She was always smiling, in good humour. They were both energetic, helpful. Everyone here is shaken. It's given us all a chill."

The Belanger sisters were found in their room by a hotel maid.

Both had a mysterious rash and discoloured nails.

The deaths evoke two similar and unsolved deaths three years ago on the same resort island where two women, an American and a Norwegian, were found poisoned in their adjoining rooms. There were signs of vomiting. Their companions also became ill but survived.

The island is a popular holiday spot for young people where bars stay open until dawn and binge drinking out of "buckets" is said to be a popular pastime.

Claude Rochon of the foreign affairs media office in Ottawa refused to disclose any information other than to say, "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the Canadian citizens who passed away in Thailand."

She added, "Canadian consular officials in Bangkok are providing consular assistance to the family and are in contact with local authorities."

According to the Thai newspaper Phuket Gazette, the sisters checked into the hotel Tuesday.

They planned to stay only one night but later asked to extend their visit through Wednesday night.

The paper quotes one Thai police officer saying the sisters arrived at the hotel Tuesday and "went out and came back to their room that same night, but stayed in their room all day on Wednesday."

The sisters were found Thursday after a maid became concerned they were not responding to her knocks.

"A maid knocked on the door to clean the room on Thursday, but there was no response, so the maid thought the women needed more rest and left," a police officer said.

Thursday evening the maid tried again. When she got no response, she grew concerned and used a master key to enter the room where she discovered the bodies. The hotel alerted police at 9 p.m.

"We rushed to the hotel with medical officers from Koh Phi Phi Hospital and a rescue team," police told the newspaper.

Police also said the young women had skin lesions, had been bleeding from the gums and their fingernails and toenails were blue.

Police told the newspaper the women died 12 to 20 hours before their bodies were found.

 

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2012 A4

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