Mystery illness kills foreign tourists on Phi Phi

KRABI: Two foreign tourists have mysteriously died and two others are seriously ill from unknown causes after holidaying on Phi Phi Island.

Much speculation surrounds the circumstances of the deaths as authorities have yet to make any official statements regarding the matter.

Press Attache at the US Embassy in Bangkok Michael Turner told the Gazette that US citizen Jill St. Onge, 26, died on May 2, shortly after being taken to hospital by her boyfriend Ryan Kells, who also fell ill.

Both tourists were vomiting severely before Miss St. Onge’s admission to hospital.

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Her family have set up a blog website to publicize the story. Writing on that site, Mr Kells said he suspected the air conditioning in their hotel room was responsible for making them ill and believes he survived because he had spent less time in the room than Miss St. Onge.

… I kept getting these breaks from the air in the room, while Jill kept staying in bed. She was exposed to the air in the room for probably five or six more hours than I was,” he wrote.

The following day, two Norwegian women in the same guesthouse developed the same symptoms.

The Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand, Merete Brattested, confirmed that Julie Michelle Bergheim, 22, died on May 4.

Her friend is recovering at Bangkok Phuket Hospital. However, hospital staff refused to give out any information apart from confirming that a seriously ill Norwegian female had been admitted but she would not receive visitors or speak to anyone.

Phi Phi Island Hospital Director Dr Buncha Khakong said that the cause of both deaths is being investigated by the Department of Disease Control in Bangkok.

I guessed something they consumed caused them to die but I cannot say clearly until we receive the lab results,” he said.

A police inquiry is now under way. The bodies of both of the deceased are understood to have been sent to Bangkok for autopsy.

A local blog had readers of the forum in a furore following publication of a report in which it was suggested that one of the deceased women had been drinking heavily in the hours leading up to her death, an assertion which the woman’s fiance vehemently knocks back. The blogger has since deleted the report from his Web.

Meanwhile, the popular ThaiVisa site was abuzz with speculation as to the true cause, or causes, of the serial tragedies on Phi Phi. Poisoned drinks, faulty air conditioning, carbon monoxide and chemicals from a water treatment plant have all been mentioned as possible causes.

For details of the “shoot now/aim later” report filed earlier today on the blog, and to keep abreast of developments as they unfold on Phi Phi Island, Gazette readers may wish to scan through the ThaiVisa postings here. Or visit the Phuket Gazette/ThaiVisa Phuket Forum for other developments and news related to the Andaman region.

— Kamol Pirat / Marc Mulloy

Phuket News

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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