Friends Kari Bowerman and Cathy Huynh were backpacking in Vietnam while taking a break from their teaching jobs in South Korea. The pair was admitted to Khanh Hoa General Hospital in Nha Trang on July 30 after the girls were found with similar symptoms. Both were vomiting, had difficulty breathing and showed signs of severe dehydration.
Huynh was released from the hospital only to hear hours later that her friend, Kari Bowerman, had gone into respiratory failure and died. Just two days later, Huynh also died.
Unfortunately, these events are eerily similar to what happened to two Canadian sisters traveling in Thailand in June. Noemi and Audrey Belanger, 25 and 20, were found by a hotel maid in their room on Phi Phi Island more than 12 hours after their deaths. Both girls were covered in blood and vomit.
New Zealand resident, Sarah Carter, also died in Chiang Mai, Thailand in February of 2011, again with similar symptoms. She was admitted to the hospital with low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and dehydration from vomiting.
So what has been the cause of all these deaths? Families of victims are demanding answers. The cause of death in every one of these cases was deemed “not yet determined.”
However, Dr. Ron McDowall, a United Nations toxic chemical consultant, reviewed Carter’s pathology reports and concluded that she died of pesticide ingestion. Thai police also recently revealed that traces of DEET—insect repellant was found in the Belanger sisters’ bodies. It is believed that this pesticide was added to a popular cocktail served on the island.
The Downtown Inn was taken down this summer following the Thailand Disease Control Department’s visit. It was concluded that three of the deaths were most likely connected to the use of pesticides.
As for the deaths of Bowerman and Huynh, investigators will know more once the autopsy results come back in a couple of weeks.
Families are determined to help raise awareness on the issue whether that includes better education or tougher insecticide regulation.