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The beauty of Phi Phi is marred by binge drinking and death riddles

Phi Phi, Vietnam, Thai Mystery Deaths Remain Open

Saturday, October 6, 2012
PHUKET: The case of the deaths of Canada's Belanger sisters on Phi Phi is unlikely to be closed until the cause of their mysterious deaths is clearly established.

Although the Thai police investigation has concluded for now, at some point new information or evidence may lead to it being reopened.

That's certainly the hope of Phuketwan and of a new Facebook group, Protected Travels, where the Belanger mystery and riddles like it are attracting a lot of attention.

Jason Von Seth is a friend of Kari Bowerman, 27, an American, who died in July of an unexplained cause in Vietnam. Ms Bowerman's friend, Canadian Cathy Huynh, 26, died a couple of days after Ms Bowerman, suffering similar symptoms.

As with the deaths of Belanger sisters Audrey, 20, and Noemi, 26, in June and with the 2009 deaths on Phi Phi of American Jill St Onge, 27, and Norwegian Julie Bergheim, 22, families and friends are still looking for answers.

That's also the case in the Downtown Inn mystery of 2011, when New Zealander Sarah Carter, 23, died in Chiang Mai, becoming the best-known of four more unexplained deaths in Thailand.

''I've wanted to make an impact and do something nice in Kari's memory since this horrific experience occurred,'' Von Seth wrote to Phuketwan.

''I had the idea of starting an organisation to support, educate and impact all types of travelers worldwide.

''Protected Travels is a supportive global community eager to educate and make a positive impact on challenges facing travelers abroad. We've been successful in attracting close to 5000 fans since September 5.''

Ryan Kells, the boyfriend of Jill St Onge, told Phuketwan recently that he fears there will continue to be mystery deaths of this kind until authorities come up with some answers.

Although Ryan also became ill, he survived while Ms St Onge died. He puts this down simply to having spent much less time in the room at the Phi Phi guesthouse where the couple fell sick.

There is no obvious link between the deaths, other than they are all mysterious, unsolved and recent.

In September, another young New Zealander, Michael Denton, 29, died mysteriously, this time on Bali.

A coroner concluded that his death was due to consumption of the local drink, arak, which is usually high in alcohol content but can also easily be contaminated.

Protected Travels aims to make people aware of the dangers of travel and, as a legacy to some of the victims, perhaps shed some fresh light on possible causes.

The site has Phuketwan's support and the support of others more closely affected by the mysterious deaths.

''I hope Protected Travels will inform young travelers about the dangers that may occur and places they should stay away from. I also wish Protected Travels will tell the world about the tragedies that happened with Julie and all the other victims. In the end, I hope their deaths will be properly investigated in order to bring justice to all the victims.''

Ina Thoresen (mother of Julie Bergheim)

''Protected Travels is a vehicle to get information out to the public, educate of the hidden dangers while traveling abroad, an outlet to provide a helping hand, a common ground for families who have been directly affected by a tragedy to a loved one while on foreign soil. It is human nature to want to travel, explore, experience new lands, people, cultures - it should be safe to do so as this world is all for us to share.''

Jennifer Jaques (sister of Kari Bowerman)

''As a traveler myself, I would like PT to help in raising awareness to young travelers of the dangers that can happen. Through the experience of other travelers that may have faced dangers, and also stories of those that no longer have a voice and lost a life in their travels, I hope we can educate, promote and discuss how to travel safe.''

Jetty Ly (best friend of Cathy Huynh)

''What I hope Protected Travels will achieve is; not putting the fear in traveling abroad but rather equip and provide more awareness for travelers. From my personal experience of losing a love one abroad, I wish there were more helpful communities like this one. Let this be an avenue to share, educate, and reflect ones experiences so that others may learn from it. After all, these tragic losses came from travelers wanting to experience different cultures and share with the rest of us. So let's gather and unite to prevent this from being someone else's last journey.''

Michael Huynh (brother of Cathy Huynh)


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