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Jill St Onge with fiance Ryan Kells: her death in 2009 remains a mystery

Young French Tourist's Death No. 6 in Chiang Mai

Monday, March 14, 2011
THE revelation of a sixth death and the results of an investigation by Thailand's Department of Disease Control has shed new light on the series of mysterious fatalities in Chiang Mai.

The sixth death involved a Frenchwoman - one of two who fell sick, a media release from the department says. It highlighted the exceptional nature of a complaint that appears to have struck down six young women aged 23-33 between January 9 and February 4, killing three of them.

These three deaths - the unnamed Frenchwoman, New Zealander Sarah Carter, 23, and American Mariam Soraya Vorster (Pandola), 33 - have been linked by the media to three other deaths, British pensioners George and Eileen Everitt, and Thai guide Waraporn Pungmahisiranon, 47.

The joint investigation by the department with the Chiang Mai Provincial Health Office ''found four clinically-confirmed cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and another two patients with mild symptoms.

''These six patients were among three separate groups of tourists visiting Chiang Mai, Thailand, between 9 January and 4 February. All were young women aged 23-33 years and were from the United States (1), Canada (1), France (2) and New Zealand (3).''

Five of the six women ''became ill while visiting Chiang Mai and one developed symptoms three days before arriving there.''

However, extensive epidemiological investigation ''has not revealed any common exposures across the three groups.''

The media release says autopsies on two of the dead patients (American and French) were done by forensic medical experts from Chiang Mai University.

The joint investigation team found four clinically-confirmed cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and another two patients with mild symptoms.

''The autopsies found nothing abnormal except for inflammation of the heart muscle,'' it says.

''The Department of Disease Control has shared this information with the World Health Organisation and US CDC offices in Bangkok, as well as the New Zealand Embassy and the International Health Regulation focal points of France and the European Community.''

The report carefully distinguishes between the cases involving the six young women and the other cases.

''In a separate episode, since 3 February, there were three other deaths in the same hotel where the three New Zealanders stayed,'' it says.

''This included an elderly British couple and a 47 year old Thai woman.

''As these three deaths occurred outside the hospital, the police took charge of the investigation.

''The autopsies of the two elderly Britons found a high degree of coronary occlusion while the examination of the Thai woman found no inflammation of the heart muscle or any other clear evidence to explain the cause of her death.''

One recent report on the Chiang Mai cases also claimed there had been 50 ''unexplained deaths'' among expats on Phuket in an eight-month period last year.

Germany's honorary consul for Phuket, Dirk Naumann, said today: ''That's absolute rubbish. If it was true, all the honorary consuls would have been up in arms about it.''

Neither of the online sites that carried the misleading article - Asia Sentinel or Irrawaddy - has responded to requests that they correct the falsehood.

Two young women - Norwegian Julie Bergheim, 22, and American Jill St Onge, 27 - died within hours of falling sick at a guesthouse on the holiday island of Phi Phi, off Phuket, in May 2009 in a baffling case that failed to produce a cause for their deaths.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


'Vedi Napoli e poi muori' - 'See Naples and die'.

Perhaps there should be a Thai equivalent for Chiang Mai.

Posted by Mike Boyd on March 14, 2011 13:06


At least the complaining about Thai inaction in Chiang Mai is having results.

Posted by Harry Barracuda on March 14, 2011 13:34


Please include in a list the two other illnesses, that recovered at Phi- Phi, and a German man in Phuket reported May 15, 2009 Phuket Gazette, Patong
Extreme vomiting, died en route to hospital
I cannot find a press link to the Iranian woman is same time but remember it.

Posted by MediaWatcher on March 14, 2011 16:05

Editor Comment:

What's reported in the media is not necessarily comprehensive, nor is it possible to link cases just because the people involved all happened to be throwing up. There are no conclusions possible from the deaths you appear to be trying to link. Better to expend your energy pressing for a reform of the system.


''These six patients were among three separate groups of tourists visiting Chiang Mai, Thailand, between 9 January and 4 February. All were young women aged 23-33 years and were from the United States (1), Canada (1), France (2) and New Zealand (3).''

The tally 1+1+2+3.. So theres 7 or 6 ??

Posted by LivinLOS on March 14, 2011 16:55

Editor Comment:

One of them may not have been admitted for treatment.


What kills the people, is it possible with some food, old fish or something like that? I like to know what it is...

Posted by Anonymous on March 14, 2011 17:17


From wikipedia: "In young adults, up to 20% of all cases of sudden death are due to myocarditis."

As the clustering of this illness shows clearly there must be some people/place/thing, like the hotel, a transport vehicle for all groups, or food/shopping center whatever in Chiang Mai being the lowest denominator of viral / bacterial breeding ground.

Why no Thai people suddenly dying?

Posted by Lena on March 14, 2011 18:37


Harry Barracuda,
That CDC bulletin was issued Feb 9th so for over a month the authorities knew something is killing people and didn't tell the public, so I don't think they are any more galvanized into action than they were three days ago.

Posted by MediaWatcher on March 15, 2011 09:01

Editor Comment:

The version you drew to our attention is dated March 12.


PW Editor, RE CDC Bulletin.

My mistake, you are correct. But the CDC was alerted on Feb 9th to the cluster. I find it inexcusable it was not published ( nor has it been? ) instead of forum users leaking it.

Subject of the bulletin was myocarditus, not a virus. What is causing healthy women to expire in rapid fashion?

Posted by MediaWatcher on March 16, 2011 09:37

Editor Comment:

Nobody's ever said that before. ''My mistake, you are correct.'' PW Hall of Fame for you, Mediawatcher.


"The tally 1+1+2+3.. So there's 7 or 6 ??"
The Thai woman had no such heart irregularities, is that the missing seventh death? This could be the death that is the " coincidence," I feel sure the CM Police Chief misspoke, maybe he meant this ?

Posted by MediaWatcher on March 17, 2011 10:23


Dear Editor,
In your article above you blasted both Asia Sentinel and Irrawaddy for sugesting that there has been at least 50 unexplained deaths in Phuket over the past 8 months. Perhaps they simply need to revise this and say that there are at least 50 deaths with no reasonable explanation. For example, man falls on a broken bottle and dies from loss of blood, Phuketwan reports a murder and then recants stating they "guessed wrong". This in many people's opinion is not a reasonable explanation.

Posted by Travelinasia on March 23, 2011 18:59

Editor Comment:

That's one, Travelinasia. Now give us 49 more. And by the way, that particular death falls outside the January-August time span that the Asia Sentinel article was claiming to know all about, via that impeccable source, the Teakdoor blog. But we'll be generous, and count it as one. Please continue. 49, 48, 47 . . .However, let us suggest your time might be better spent asking Asia Sentinel to justify its appalling dive into paranoia, wild speculation and junk journalism. Are they going to speak out and correct the error, like ethical journalists would - as Phuketwan did in the case you mention? Nooo, not likely. Shameful stuff. Do you believe this drivel? (Your judgement record so far isn't great, Travelinasia. You've linked this to the wrong article.)

Monday June 24, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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