Phi Phi tourist deaths possibly food poisoning

PHUKET CITY: The mysterious deaths of two female tourists on Phi Phi Island earlier this month were possibly caused by food poisoning, preliminary lab findings suggest.

Krabi Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Pasin Noksakul told the Gazette today that researchers at the Police Institute of Forensic Medicine in Bangkok have found signs of microbial infection in blood samples taken from the bodies of 27-year-old Jill St Onge from the US and Norwegian Julie Bergheim, 22.

Gen Pasin said results from the Forensics Institute were preliminary and not yet official. He was unable to say whether the infectious agent or agents were viral or bacterial, but said he was told by the institute that both women’s blood contained microbes consistent with those that cause food poisoning, likely from contaminated seafood.

The two women, who stayed in adjacent rooms at the Laleena guesthouse on Phi Phi Don Island at the beginning of May, died within hours of each other at Phi Phi Island Hospital after severe vomiting.

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In blood samples taken from Ms Bergheim the researchers found three different kinds of potentially harmful microbes, while blood samples from Ms St Onge had only one, he said.

Although it is not normal procedure to release results until they are official, Gen Pasin said he wanted to quell widespread speculation over the cause of the deaths on Internet blogsites and chat forums.

Such theories have included exposure to toxic gas from a nearby wastewater treatment plant, problems with the air conditioning in the guest rooms, accidental overdoses of the 4 X 100 drug cocktail that has been gaining popularity in the south over the past year and even murder by poisoning.

The Forensics Institute is continuing to study the microbes to positively identify them and test their virility, he said.

I don’t know when the official results will be released, but the commander of the Royal Thai Police has ordered the lab work expedited because the embassies of the two deceased tourists want to know the cause of the death as soon as possible,” he said.

Gen Pasin ruled out the possibility that [methane] gas emanating from the nearby wastewater treatment plant might have been the cause, saying the plant had been in the area for a long time with no ill effects on local people or tourists.

Had a dangerous gas spread into the guesthouse, many more people would have been affected,” he said.

— Kamol Pirat

Phuket News

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