Phi Phi home to deadly cocktails?
KRABI, 10 September 2012: A widely used insect repellent has been linked to the deaths of two Canadian tourists , 13 June, while on holiday on Phi Phi island.
Initial reports on CBC News late last month stated that the results of an autopsy suggested they had died from a drinking a cocktail that contained the insect repellent DEET.
Results of the autopsy carried out a Bangkok hospital were not publicly released, but they were shown to reporters for CBC’s French-language news network.
If DEET cocktails are being sold illegally by pubs then visitors need to be warned of the dangers and pub owners prosecuted for endangering the health and lives of their customers.
Details are sketchy and it is still not known conclusively if DEET was the cause of death. Investigations have not been able to show whether they ingested the chemical accidently or drank it in a cocktail.
According to the report, 20-year-old Audrey and Noemi Belanger, 25, had traces of DEET in their bodies and they most probably ingested it as part of a drink.
The news report claimed DEET, a neurotoxic mosquito repellent, is used as an ingredient in a euphoria-inducing cocktail that is popular among youth in Thailand. The drink contains cough syrup, Coke, DEET and ground kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) leaves, which are a mild narcotic indigenous to Thailand.
Information on the internet suggests the overuse of DEET, which is applied to the skin to repel mosquitoes, can cause seizures, but only four deaths have been reported.
It is understood that the drink is served at establishments on Phi Phi Island, but there has been no report from police authorities on efforts to crack down on its illegal sale.
It is thought that an overdose of DEET was accidentally mixed into the young women’s drinks. Earlier it was assumed they had died from drinking a cocktail mixed with magic mushrooms.
Tourists commenting on the internet said there were magic mushrooms on the menus at restaurants on Pha Ngan, Samui and Phi Phi islands, all frequented by so called ‘backpackers’.
The local name is “Khee Kwai”, or magic mushroom, can cause heavy intoxication and hallucinations. Mixed with alcoholic beverages the drinks can be dangerous to people who are allergic.
However, drinks mixed with DEET were not mentioned and it has yet to be confirmed whether the drink is widely sold at Phi Phi island bars and discos.
The sisters had travelled from China to Vietnam and were concluding their holiday in Thailand when disaster struck.
They had just arrived on the Thai island of Phi Phi and were last seen partying with two Brazilian friends in the early morning of 13 June. 48 hours later, when staff at their hotel had not seen them emerge from their room, a receptionist called police.
The sisters were found dead in their room at Palm Residence Hotel on Ao Nang in Muang district in Krabi, and it was speculated that poisoning, probably accidental, played a role. Police said they found no signs of foul play.
Another autopsy is supposed to take place in Montreal, but final results from that are expected to take months. The Belangers were from Pohenegamook, in Quebec’s Lower Saint Lawrence region.
Nevertheless, the sisters’ case is not the first case linked to Phi Phi Island. Back in May 2009, American Jill St Onge, 27, and Norwegian Julie Michelle Bergheim, 22, died in similar circumstances, while staying in adjoining rooms at the Laleena guest house.
Despite pathology tests in Norway and the United States, the cause of death was never been determined.
Also the mysterious death of a 23-year-old New Zealand woman, Sarah Carter and several other tourists in Chiang Mai who allegedly stayed at the city’s Downtown Inn has still not been solved, although it is understood the hotel has been demolished.
Despite the negative publicity the hotel and travel industry has done little to research and investigate the complaints, mostly comments on the internet, to see if there are valid concerns for the safety and security of tourists visiting popular destinations.
If the illegal substances are being used in drinks at discos and pubs then more information should be provided to tourists through the travel community to warn them of the dangers.