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Ryan Kells and Jill St Onge: ''congested lungs'' a new indicator

Phi Phi Deaths Riddle 'Linked to Lung Congestion'

Saturday, May 30, 2009
New Clue in Laleena Guesthouse Mystery

A PATHOLOGIST has found that the lungs of one of the tourists who died in mysterious circumstances on Phi Phi earlier this month were ''one hundred percent congested,'' CNN is reporting.

Such a finding would be consistent with investigators returning to the Laleena Guesthouse, as they did last Saturday, to take additional samples from chemicals and the air-conditioning units.

Another team of investigators also took chemical samples from Laleena immediately after the deaths of American Jill St Onge, 27, and Norwegian Julie Bergheim, 22.

The tourists fell ill in adjoining ground-floor Rooms 4 and 5 at the guesthouse and died within hours of each other at the local hospital on the weekend of May 2 and May 3.

Members of St Onge's family are quoted by CNN as saying they feel the pathologist's findings, though preliminary, are enough to contradict public statements made by Thai investigators that St Onge was the victim of food poisoning.

Although some police have told a local newspaper that they believe the cause of the deaths is food poisoning, more than one theory is being pursued by separate teams of investigators.

The samples taken during last Saturday's return to Laleena by 18 officers, led by Phuket Police General Nappadon Kantakanit, are now being examined in a laboratory at Prince of Songkla University in Haad Yai.

St. Onge's fiancee, Ryan Kells, who was with her when she died, told CNN: ''I am 99.9 percent sure she did not die of food poisoning.

''She suffocated to death. I am not a doctor, but I know when someone can't breathe.''

Kells and a younger Norwegian woman travelling with Ms Bergheim also fell ill, but recovered.

Blood and tissue samples were provided to members of St Onge's family by pathologists who carried out an autopsy on St Onge in Bangkok before her body was cremated.

As well as the lab tests being undertaken in Haad Yai, toxicology tests are now being carried out in Bangkok and the US, where St Onge's brother Robert told CNN a pathologist hired by the family ''said her lung tissue was gone.''

The maid who discovered the Norwegian women seriously ill in their room has given her account of what transpired to Phuketwan while Ryan Kell's detailed account has been recorded in an online blog.

Kells and Miss St Onge were on a long adventure through South-East Asia, during which he asked her to marry him.

He has also told Phuketwan that local authorities seemed keen to have him leave the holiday island with his fiancee's body as fast as possible after her death.

The American couple shifted to Laleena from another establishment on Phi Phi on May 2 and fell ill that evening.

Ryan Kells said he noticed a ''chemical smell'' on entering their room.

The Norwegians had been staying at Laleena for several days, usually slept late and were observed enjoying the island's nightlife.

Toxicology can take weeks for a conclusion and authorities have warned a definitive cause for the deaths may still be several weeks away.

Police General Nappadon told Phuketwan: '''We checked the locality and the rooms where the women fell ill. 'We took away various spray cleaners and a vacuum cleaner, and the air-conditioning filters.''

Phi Phi, about 90 minutes by ferry from the larger holiday island of Phuket, continues to attract normal numbers of tourists.

Phuketwan File on the Phi Phi Mystery

Phi Phi Riddle: Fresh Check at Laleena Guesthouse
Latest Investigators have returned to the Laleena Guesthouse on Phi Phi, where two tourists fell ill in mysterious circumstances and later died.
Phi Phi Riddle: Fresh Check at Laleena Guesthouse

Phi Phi Mystery Deaths: The Room Maid's Account
Phi Phi Photo Album Thai guesthouse maids have a way of knowing what goes on and the maid at the Laleena on Phi Phi was close to two mysterious deaths. This is her account.
Phi Phi Mystery Deaths: The Room Maid's Account

Why Pursuing the Truth Matters for Tourism
Opinion/Analysis Does it matter if the truth is never known about mishaps that kill tourists on and around Phuket? It matters because of trust. Only once the whole truth is told can trust be restored.
Why Pursuing the Truth Matters for Tourism

Dead Tourist 'Pushed off Phi Phi': Boyfriend
Latest The boyfriend of an American who died in strange circumstances along with a Norwegian woman on Phi Phi has rejected suggestions that they argued.
Dead Tourist 'Pushed off Phi Phi': Boyfriend

Phi Phi Deaths: No Word on What Killed Women
Latest Inquiries were continuing today into the mysterious deaths of two women who occupied adjoining rooms at the same Phi Phi guesthouse. Several rumors have been discounted.
Phi Phi Deaths: No Word on What Killed Women

MediaWATCH: Tourist Death Theories Abound
Latest Internal Security Act coming for Phuket; International media seek clues to the deaths of two Phi Phi tourists; why travel is not dangerous; a swim to Burmese heroine Suu Kyi.
MediaWATCH: Tourist Death Theories Abound

Phi Phi Deaths: Paradise By Day, Party By Night
Take the Tour The deaths of two tourists on Phi Phi remain a mystery as speculation continues about the cause. The island, visited by day trippers in sunshine, also parties long and hard.
Phi Phi Deaths: Paradise By Day, Party By Night

Phi Phi Deaths: Cause 'May Take a Month or More'
Latest Relatives and friends of two women who died in strange circumstances on Phi Phi will probably have to wait several weeks before they learn the cause, and so will islanders.
Phi Phi Deaths: Cause 'May Take a Month or More'


Comments have been disabled for this article.


The ONLY reason those investigators took samples ( three weeks later) is because the respective Embassies are pushing for a conclusion.

Smart on the part of the St.Onge family to get their own biopsies done, otherwise it would have been totally whitewashed as "food poisoning" .

Incidentally, furniture coming from China laden with preservative chemicals was making people sick in the UK last year.

Posted by Ex- Pat Coroner on May 31, 2009 08:15


Have we forgotten that we have some survivors here? Since Jill's lungs were 'obliterated', are there any signs of lung problems in Ryan or the other woman, the one sharing the guest house with Julie? Would an x-ray or CT scan show recent lung damage, giving more concrete evidence to the bad air theory?

Posted by in Seattle on May 31, 2009 14:43


I wonder if anyone else is puzzled by the strange deaths of tourists in Thailand and the apparent reluctance of the Thai police to do a thorough investigation. In addition to these deaths, the recent death of actor David Carridine seems very odd. It is almost as though the Thai authorities prefer to have the deaths covered for fear of what the truth may do to the Thai tourism industry. I would hope that with some pressure, the Thai authorities would allow open investigations of these mysterious deaths.

Posted by Gene on June 7, 2009 01:27


Just when we thought it could not get worse with the bury your head officials, along comes the David Carradine death in Bangkok. The FBI are now here to sort out the truth, as the authorities here, seem incapable of doing that.Such a pity that the normal folks do not have access to the truth, when it comes to deaths here. Once again, blah blah, blah.

Posted by Mouse on June 7, 2009 08:59


It's all about tourists and their money. Thai Officials don't give a hoot who dies or of what, providing people still come and spend. Interesting to note that the bottom line of the editorial reads ... "Phi Phi, about 90 minutes by ferry from the larger holiday island of Phuket, continues to attract normal numbers of tourists." So I assume that makes everything all right. If they don't care about us, why should we support their economy?

Posted by Noddy on June 7, 2009 20:58

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