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Room 5 (left) and Room 4 at Laleena, open to a walkway on Phi Phi

Phi Phi Mystery Deaths: The Room Maid's Account

Thursday, May 7, 2009
Phi Phi Photo Album Above

TEARS were flowing on the holiday island of Phi Phi today over the tragic deaths of two tourists, a Norwegian and an American, both women.

Doing the crying was no friend or relative, but the owner of the guesthouse where the two women fell sick, and later died not far away in the local hospital.

Many questions still remain about Rooms 4 and 5 at the Laleena Guesthouse, where the naked occupants, two couples, suffered from some strange malaise that killed two of them at the weekend.

The guesthouse owner, Rat Chuped, opened Laleena a year before the 2004 tsunami swept over Phi Phi, killing more than 800 people.

But the latest mystery is seen by many locals on the island as posing the same kind of threat to Phi Phi's appeal to tourists.

The conflict now is between those who want the facts to be told and the mysterious deaths of the two women fully explained, and those who see the tragedy as an unwelcome threat to the island's most essential industry.

I visited the guesthouse today. All kinds of rumors have sprung up because of the strange nature of the deaths, and the holiday paradise that is Phi Phi.

Americans Ryan Kells and Jill St Onge were in Room 4, with Norwegian pair Julie Michelle Bergheim and her friend, who signed the register as ''Karina,'' in Room 5.

Today only Ryan Kells and ''Karina'' are alive. Their companions died in tragic but similar circumstances, within hours of each other, on Sunday and early on Monday morning.

Ryan Kells has since told his story in full online on a blog site, and responded to media requests.

''Karina,'' a 19-year-old Norwegian, has remained anonymous and was said today by a local priest to be catching a flight back to Norway on Friday.

She probably knows as much as anyone about the strange circumstances that left two young women dead and a holiday island fearing for its future.

The room maid at the Laleena, who did not wish her name to be used, told her version of events for the first time today.

She said the American couple arrived on Saturday about 11am and booked an air-conditioned room, Room 4. They had moved from another guesthouse on the island.

The couple seemed to sleep until about 8pm. The room maid said there was a notice in every room, advising people to call her telephone number if they had a problem.

She finished work at 8pm.

On Sunday morning, the maid, who stays at the guesthouse, found it strange that nobody had emerged, and checked with the security guard at premises opposite the Laleena.

He told her he had seen the American man make an appearance about 3am, and then later, had seen a couple. But he was not sure whether it was the Americans or the Norwegians, the maid said.

About 7am on Sunday, the American man opened the room door and asked the maid for help. He said: ''My girlfriend needs a doctor.''

Both Americans were not wearing clothes, she said, but the man was wrapped in a sheet, or a towel.

The maid said the American man helped to take his girlfriend to the island hospital, in a hand cart.

The maid was told later that the American woman died at the hospital.

The Norwegian women had been at the guesthouse since April 30, and were staying until May 6, yesterday.

The two women normally woke up around noon, the maid said, and usually emerged to say ''Hello.''

But they stayed in Room 5 on Sunday until 8pm, when the maid knocked on the door. Nobody answered.

She opened the door with her master key and found the two women naked on the bed.

''Karina'' said, weakly, ''We need a doctor.'' The maid said she called Phi Phi hospital, but there was no answer.

Because Phi Phi has no motorised transport, the maid and a male friend put the two Norwegian women in handcarts. They pushed the sick couple to the local hospital.

By that time, the maid was to learn later, the American woman had already died at the hospital.

''Why did doctor take so long to make a diagnosis?'' the maid said, ''One person had already died that day.

''The Norwegians should have been sent on straight away to a bigger and better hospital.''

The older of the two women, who was most ill, died about 1.30am at the Phi Phi hospital, the maid learned later.

Some of the tears shed today by guesthouse owner, Rat Chuped were for herself, and for Phi Phi.

She has closed her establishment, even though she says she knows her premises are spotless and in no way connected to the deaths.

The air-conditioning units have been checked regularly every three months, the last time in March, she said.

She cannot explain how two people fell sick at Laleena and later died.

But she does suspect the island's tourist drinking culture, where buckets are filled with mixtures of alcohol, energy drinks and fruit concoctions.

After dark, many young tourists trip from one bar to another, drinking their ''bucket,'' and perhaps more.

By day, Phi Phi is a charming, natural place, but after dark, it becomes noisy, crowded, and no longer sober.

Most young visitors join in the drunken fun after dark.

Autopsies should certainly reveal the presence of alcohol. Official inquiries are continuing.

But until ''Karina'' gives her account, Phi Phi and the outside world will be left to wonder.

with additional reporting by Alan Morison

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Comments

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A tragic that will undoubtedly be swept under the carpet to protect the tourist industry. Although it would be nice to have a full independent inquiry into these tragic deaths.

Posted by Anonymous on May 8, 2009 09:34

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The best news I have heard yet in this case is that the owner closed the establishment awaiting some official determination of what happened in these 2 deaths.

Shame on the government, police, hospitals, everyone else that has seemingly done very little.

Khun Rat, when it is verified your place is not the cause of these deaths, I will be one of the first to arrive to patronize your business.

Posted by John on May 8, 2009 11:40

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Very interesting, I noticed the subtle slandering in the story, re-read it and see how it mentions all these tourists were naked. Now I once was extrodinarily sick from food poisoning here in USA. It was hours and hours of constant run to the toilet extreme direaha and voimit, sometimes both at the same time! You quickly discard the clothes as they take too much time to remove and get covered in disgusting body fluids.
I rent a place, the air conditioning is only checked if it stops working. I really doubt they check it, other than to look and see "yah it still runs". Unless of course its leaking freon and needs refilling every 3 months. Freon is poisonous.
Lastly, lets address the alcohol, you would expect drinking fruit drinks with alcohol would be safer than fruit alone, as the alcohol would kill bacteria etc in the drink. However, perhaps the alcohol was home-made type, perhaps the poisonous type methol alcohol. I know the tourists report not drinking, but maybe they had a few (3-4) from some place that spiked/extended the alcohol with cheap poison alcohol.
You can expect just like in "JAWS", a tourist town will cover up the cause of death.

Posted by Peter on May 9, 2009 22:41

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Yes, Thailand is simply a dishonest place that uses tropical weather, beautiful beaches to lure tourists for their foreign currency; but provides little safety, investigative ability, transparency in government, and care for the same tourists. Foreigners are welcome to Thailand for their money. If Thailand is to ever regain status on the world stage again, it must move past being a corrupt, secretive society that treats foreigners nicely as only a means to an end, which is to gain money from them.

Posted by Frank on May 10, 2009 15:25

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I agree that Thailand has to move past its corrupt and secretive operations but it is definitely not "a dishonest place"; it is just not right to stereotype the whole country on just one incident. There are various places that you can go and find decent Thai people that do not "lure" tourists for their money. If you are in a situation that makes you feel lured then it probably means that you are in the wrong place and is too cheap to pay more money to stay at a better hotel and drink better alcohol. Home made alcohol is not poisonous and the only reason that rubbing alcohol is poisonous is because they add substances in it to make in undrinkable. Why would the bars want to do that anyway, they would lose their customers in the long run and it is obviously not a good tactic if you want your business to survive.

I believe that the Thai authorities need to be open about this investigation and need to allow independent medical examiners examine the bodies for causes of death. Phi Phi is also where tourists with less money go because of how affordable it is and thus health and cleanliness is obviously not a high priority. Fix up Phi Phi so that it becomes a better and affordable place not just a dirty, cheap place with nice beaches.

Posted by Natalie on May 12, 2009 03:54

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This case is rather similar to the one about the guest suffer lung infection and nearly died at the hotel in Bangkok. It appear that the material used for air ventilation was the caused of it. Perhaps, if the police are keen, they should look up this lead

Posted by Joseph Tan on May 12, 2009 12:11

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I have been to Puket and Phi Phi for one holiday and It was Nice
I would not go back there again Not even if I was Offered Free Accomodation and meals
I don't feel the Thai police or immigration value our presence.
The only Thai smile I received was from people taking money from me.
If they are not doing that, you certainly see the dark side. Thanks But No Thanks
English Farang

Posted by birdie on May 16, 2009 15:46

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Did any of the investigations check for Hydrogen Sulphide gas or Methane?

I notice a large wast water tank nearby and also noted that waste water treatment plant was close by.

H2s multiplies in such conditions and in lethal mixtures disable the sense of smell. Lower concentrations smell like rotten eggs!

Posted by Dave on July 4, 2009 06:42

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ITS REALLY TIME THAT THAILAND TOOK A BLOODY HARD LOOK AT ITS SELF...IF THEY WANT ANY FUTURE AT ALL. GOD BLESS THOSE GIRLS.

Posted by Anonymous on June 13, 2010 16:56

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My brother died in Phi Phi two years before.Very sad, it destroyed not only my life, but our whole family.

One question I would like to ask, why his body showed the green point around after 2-day of his death?

Why the local doctored concluded he was dead because of drowning but writing the first death reason is Cervical vertebra break.

Was he hitting by the local taxi boat when he was snorkeling?
Why his body appeared in the second morning on the beach with his figures crossed on his chest? That is definitely not a gesture when people found from snorkeling?

Tell me, tell me the truth.
I hate Phi Phi, especially the hospital without dead-body freezing condition.
I hate Phi Phi, it is a hell.

Posted by Xiaolu on November 13, 2012 01:02


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