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A ferry ticket to Phi Phi can bring environmental highs and lows

I Saw Canadian Sisters' Bodies Through My Window, Says Neighbor

Sunday, June 17, 2012
PHI PHI: It's disconcerting sitting in a restaurant eating burritos while a serious investigation into two mysterious deaths is taking place just a few steps away. But that's Phi Phi, never what it seems. Always a bit of this, a bit of that.

There was some fresh information delivered today to the Phuketwan reporting team as we attempted to understand why the lives of Canadian sisters Audrey Belanger, 20, and her sister Noemi, 26, seemed so full of a big adventure one moment and brought to a sudden, shocking stop the next.

We asked around. Ollie, a young British resident of Phi Phi, said he had seen into the room where the young women died. His room at a nearby resort overlooks the Palms Residence Phi Phi, where the women died in a ground-floor room.

A law student, he said he watched with some alarm as the bodies - which he said were garishly akimbo when he first saw them - were taken away and the room spotlessly cleaned.

Whether toxicology samples were taken beforehand won't be known by Phuketwan or the public until later. But we did see police leaving the Palms Residence Phi Phi today with a clear plastic bag of items.

These appeared to include a headphone set, some pills and medication, and some other material that wasn't plain to us.

We were told that as well as talking to staff at the resort today, the police also interviewed a local doctor who was the first medical person on the scene.

The bodies did not go to the Phi Phi Hospital. They were taken straight off the island to mainland Thailand, where they were in Krabi Hospital today but likely to be sent for autopsy soon to facilities in Bangkok or another province, Songkhla.

We were a little surprised to see police still at the resort in such numbers today. With this case an important one, we figured Saturday should have seen the resort swarming with police.

But Phi Phi, popular holiday destination with 20-somethings from around the world, is difficult to reach, a little remote. Hence its charm. It is remote in many senses, particularly smell.

Strolling around Phi Phi's narrow lanes, where there are no motorised vehicles, only walkers and cyclists, the stink of bad water or odd chemicals assault the nostrils at some points, while pleasant restaurant smells waft out at others.

People over the age of 30 may feel out of place here. While there were a few families and even a person or two over 40 on the ferry from Phuket today, the vast majority of people on Phi Phi are aged 30 or younger.

The poet John Milton wrote about ''Paradise Lost'' and the concept of a heavenly tropical haven seems to drive brochure writers to hyerbolic extremes.

But after the best part of a day on Phi Phi, our conclusion was that it's Paradise Stung.

A large number of the young people we encountered seemed to be suffering from hangovers of one kind or another. It's certainly true that Phi Phi is, as TripAdvisor suggests, possibly deserving of the title of World's No 1 Must-See Island.

The ragged cliffs and sandy bays are incomparable. However, there is, as Milton could probably tell you, also a dark side. It's toxic in places. Black water oozes along some pavements.

The odor of sewage on the loose is not hard to find. This week the island is probably still suffering the aftermath of a monsoon downpour that swamped the entire region a little while back, a deluge on a scale seldom experienced.

Would Phi Phi's bad water and sewage disposal system have stood up to such an unusual torrent? We think not.

There's always the chance that Phi Phi's lack of proper infrastructure had something to do with the deaths of the Canadians. Add it to the theories.

Back in 2009, when a couple of other young women took sick on Phi Phi and died in mysterious circumstances, all the theories about chemicals, gasses and food poisoning were suggested.

No answers were ever found. Police in Thailand failed to determine what killed American Jill St Onge, 27, and Norwegian Julie Bergheim, 22, on Phi Phi.

Where they were staying, at Laleena guesthouse, was a little closer to Phi Phi's black sludge of bad water than the Palm Residence Phi Phi. But the heavy rains could have carried the muck a lot further this time.

It was, remember, the same time of the year.

Jill St Onge was cremated before her remains were sent home. Julie Bergheim's body was returned to Norway intact, and some of the best pathologists in the country attempted to determine the cause of her death. They failed.

It is to be hoped the Canadian authorities charged with investigating this case, along with the Thai police, are aware of the need for a result and consider the option of flying the sisters' bodies back to Canada for a thorough second autopsy, should a cause of death not emerge soon.

Paradise Regained is what we'd all like to see.

Give us not only an end to the black water in the laneways but also a conclusion to not knowing what killed two more vibrant young women on Phi Phi.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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What a f***ing stupid article full of circular reasoning and lack of scientific facts. Basically, he concludes that the deaths were due to a mysterious "muck" with zero evidence to support his claims.

Posted by Karen on June 17, 2012 20:41

Editor Comment:

The article draws no conclusions.
Come back when you can f***ing read, f***ing think and f***ing post without swearing, Karen.

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Ed, your news, your articles and your opinions are "fried air"!
The question is: is Thailand safe? The only answer is, " Absolutely NO! "

Everywhere: on the road, on the beaches, at home, in the resort.
Young tourists have been poissoned three times in three years, and you ed, you still continue to defend Phuket and its subnornal attitude and culture. How lomg will you hide the reality of this fake island? People come on holiday to die here! Does this say nothing to you and to your opportunist dialectic?

Posted by Coralie on June 17, 2012 21:56

Editor Comment:

You're the one with the opportunistic dialectic, Coralie, not to mention a twisted outlook too, doctor. Millions of people come to Thailand each year. The vast majority have a wonderful time. The mysterious deaths in Thailand are a bit different different to the serial killers, hoods with guns and knives, drink-spikers and downright bad people that tourists encounter, in similar proportions, in other countries. When it comes to safety, I know where I'd rather be. Don't let your bigotry get the best of you.

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they had there chance after the tsunami to turn it back into paradise they did not.

too early to tell but hope truth comes out and any future deaths are prevented real shame two young ladies starting out on lifes adventures lost there lives

Karen i think its well written and i have nothing to do with or connections to the editor

Posted by michael on June 17, 2012 23:50

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The article is spot on... Karen can stick it... And let us hope we get some more info soon.

Posted by chris on June 18, 2012 02:18

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Karen and Coralie - wake up and get a life! The article is well done and seeks answers to the right questions about the investigation and putting an end to this story with conclusive findings.

Just wonder Mr. Editor, you say Ollie is a resident and also a law student? Did he come up with the words "garishly akimbo"? And you mention he says "the room spotlessly cleaned", cleaned by whom the Resort or the Police?

Posted by Brad on June 18, 2012 07:40

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You forgot to mention all the tourists and their guide(s) that dies in Chang Mai

Posted by Gary on June 18, 2012 09:22

Editor Comment:

We've given that plenty of coverage and the relationship between that case and these cases is obviously distant.

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So ED, are you now actually admitting to there being mysterious deaths? This is a complete turn around from 6 months ago, where you always defended the poor police work or lack of it!

Posted by Glassy on June 18, 2012 09:44

Editor Comment:

Anyone who starts off a comment ''So Ed . . . '' comes to the keyboard wanting to prove something. Try to distinguish between genuine mystery deaths and suicides that people with vivid imaginations think are murders. You want a conspiracy, Glassy? Go look elsewhere. I won't waste my time again.

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(moderated)

Posted by Media Watcher on June 18, 2012 12:33

Editor Comment:

We said goodbye and meant it.

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A great story... but the comments are even better. Love it!

Posted by Duncan on June 18, 2012 14:18

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I always go to Phuketwan now.. instead of ..... which doesn't seem to update much anymore. Plus PW is usually a lot more interesting!

I hope this particular mystery is solved !

Posted by Matt on June 18, 2012 16:31

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Thanks for following this story, editor, and for your comments too. I will follow this with interest.

Posted by Anonymous on June 19, 2012 18:56


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