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Sarah Carter: her death and other fatalities still have no clear cause

Bed Bug Spray Blamed for Tourist's Mystery Death

Sunday, May 8, 2011
TOURIST Sarah Carter may have died mysteriously in Chiang Mai earlier this year from reaction to an overdose of insecticide, a New Zealand television show speculated tonight.

The 'Sixty Minutes' program took samples from a Chiang Mai hotel room for testing and found traces of an insecticide, chlorpyrifos, which is banned from domestic use in some countries.

A link is also being drawn with the mystifying case of the deaths of young tourists American Jill St Onge and Norwegian Julie Bergheim on Phi Phi in 2009.

A Phuketwan reporter visited the Laleena guesthouse on Phi Phi soon after the deaths while samples of household chemicals were being taken for testing, but no cause of the fatalities was ever established.

Sarah Carter's death was one of seven in Chiang Mai over a period of several weeks earlier this year. The deaths have yet to be adequately explained by local authorities, who believe they were coincidental.

According to New Zealand reports, the 'Sixty Minutes' program has produced ''credible evidence'' that Sarah Carter died due to insecticide poisoning.

Chemical samples were taken from the bedroom that 23-year-old Ms Carter stayed in at the Downtown Inn, at a time when the entire fifth floor was being pulled apart and cleaned.

Before leaving for Chiang Mai, 'Sixty Minutes' spoke to a New Zealand scientist who suspected insecticide poisoning.

''I think she's been killed by an overzealous sprayer who has been acting on the instructions of the hotel owner to deal with the bed bugs,'' chemical expert Dr Ron McDowall, who works for the United Nations cleaning up toxic rubbish dumps, was quoted as saying on the site

He said the traces brought brought back were small, but the fact that the chemical was found three months later, in a room that had been scrubbed, points to chlorpyrifos poisoning.

Among other theories is one that goes that the heavy use of chemicals on foodstuffs grown around Chiang Mai may have left residues in a meal eaten by Ms Carter and her two friends, who also fell ill but survived.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


I wouldn't call this an overdose. Please call it what it is : exposure to the chemical. Overdose is not the correct word to describe this tragedy. An overdose implies Sarah voluntarily ingested the chemical. That is not true. The chemical was sprayed in her room and she was exposed to the chemical. Please correct the wording in this article.

Posted by AndrewF on May 8, 2011 16:48

Editor Comment:

We don't make implications, readers draw conclusions.


Yes, I (and many others) laud some progress in this case: I have constantly e-mailed the Downtown Inn in Chiang Mai, asking why no Tripadvisor comments have been online since Feb 11 with (predictably) no response. A stonewalling, 'waiting for it all to go away' has long been the nation-wide response to familial tragedies involving foreign victims. This time, with outside 'interference' we may finally have a glimpse of the truth. Compare and contrast to the One-Two-Go crash of a few years' ago: no reaction, stonewalling. It won't go away. Health & Safety standards must be raised. But at what eventual cost to visitors' lives?

Posted by Sam W on May 8, 2011 18:48


not bad for a blind man
Sent: Saturday, April 23, 2011 8:42 PM
Subject: Re: Recent deaths in Thailand

> hi again,
> i have been in touch with sara from 60 minutes new zealand, she phoned me
> this afternoon, sara left for thailand this , she is travelling with a
> united nations chemical expert, which is good.
> and they are going to take samples from the airconditioners, not sure if
> they can get into all three rooms, she also said that the brits room was
> sprayed before they moved into the room.
> what is a concern at the moment is the bed bug problem, many hotels,
> motels ,guest houses are calling in pest control companies to get rid of
> them. these bugs are harg to control, me thinks they are using banned
> products to get rid of them
> all for now

Posted by jimbo on May 8, 2011 19:45


good catch. glad it's not the FSB after all.

Posted by JingJing on May 9, 2011 01:45


Overdose; An excessive dose, especially of a narcotic. ; Example - To take an overdose.

Overdose is not a good choice of wording Editor. Would it be so hard to change the wording and make it more suitable?
If not for the readers, but for the family of the poor girl involved.

Posted by Joel M on May 9, 2011 09:40

Editor Comment:

I think the family of the young lady understand very well that all of us are involuntarily exposed to insecticides and other poisons every day, and that their daughter may have died from an overdose of one particular poison. Only in your mind is the use of the word being distorted.


I tend to agree with AndrewF and Joel M that the use of the word 'overdose' is incorrect in this context.

According to my Macquarie:
dose - 1. a quantity of medicine prescribed to be taken at one time
2. a definite quantity of anything analogous to medicine, esp. something nauseous or disagreeable

overdose - 1. an excessive dose
2. to dose to excess
3. take an overdose of a drug

The article should be reworded to indicate exposure to the chemical in question, that chemical having been applied in excessive quantities.

Posted by Hugh on May 9, 2011 13:52


I agree with AndrewF, Joel M, and Hugh regarding the use of the word "overdose" in the article. "Exposure" would be much more appropriate in this case.

Posted by Rick on May 9, 2011 23:08


Samples taken three months later prove nothing. That room could have been sprayed 2 days earlier and since no toxicology tests on Ms. Carter's body have returned. Case is far from solved IMO

Posted by MediaWatcher on May 16, 2011 08:52

Editor Comment:

Quite right. 'Sixty Minutes' in New Zealand merely carried out the junk journalism ploy of pretending to know more than they did.


4 people asked a single change and your to stubborn to make it? very sad ed...

and your comment to MediaWatcher.... Who is speculating with out any facts now editor?


Posted by Joel M on May 16, 2011 13:27

Editor Comment:

Numbers don't count when it comes to accuracy, Joel M. Perhaps you need to read once again the introduction to our report, where we make it plain that this is yet another unproven theory:

TOURIST Sarah Carter may have died mysteriously in Chiang Mai earlier this year from reaction to an overdose of insecticide, a New Zealand television show speculated tonight.


They were all attractive young blonde women. Seems like someone in Chiang Mai has got a penchant for that type. Insecticide? Homicide!!!

Posted by Detective on May 16, 2011 18:32

Editor Comment:

Only in your vivid imagination, Detective.


Joel M,
It's probably just a coincidence that several people have expressed concern over the improper usage of the word ''overdose'' in this article. That might be fitting for this case anyway. After all, if the government is in denial, why can't a news publication be as well?

Dear Editor,
Please keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your comebacks and I hope you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. Since we're on the subject, can you please clarify what your goals are in regards to the comebacks? Are they meant to defend the honor of Phuketwan at all costs, regardless of the impression it leaves on the original commenter and others that are following along?

Posted by Rick on May 16, 2011 21:41

Editor Comment:

We're only interested in making sure something close to the truth gets out there, Rick. As history should teach you, being in the majority doesn't necessarily make anything right. Nor does being on 'Sixty Minutes.' We don't seek to impress anyone, and we know nothing works on conspiracy theorists.


Dear Editor,
That works for me.

Posted by Rick on May 16, 2011 22:20


Ms. Vorster was a brunette but I agree, the patients are young attractive western women in a disproportionate ratio to the population. I think this is pertinent and also in the Phi Phi case.
Thai authorities are stating Ms Carter's body was removed before being autopsied, any validation of this?

Posted by MediaWatcher on May 21, 2011 11:11

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