Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fifth Mystery Death in Chiang Mai Riddle: Laleena Link?

Sarah Carter's death is as mysterious as the deaths of two young women on Phi Phi in 2009

Fifth Mystery Death in Chiang Mai Riddle: Laleena Link?

By Phuketwan Reporter
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A FIFTH mysterious death has been revealed as Chiang Mai's ''fatal attraction'' begins to impact on the city's ability to appeal to tourists.

The death of 33-year-old American Mariam Soraya Vorster, who was working as a guide in Chiang Mai, means that five deaths took place within six weeks - and authorities have yet to find believable causes for any of them.

The first death that came to public notice was that of 23-year-old Sarah Carter, who died in a Chiang Mai Hospital after she and two friends required treatment for a strange malady that was first attributed to food poisoning.

Since then, more deaths and revelations of other fatalities that preceded Ms Carter's demise have triggered increasing concern in Thailand, in Ms Carter's home country of New Zealand, and in Britain, home of George and Eileen Everitt, who died suspiciously at the Downtown Inn, along with Thai Waraporn Pungmahisiranon.

Khun Waraporn died two days before Ms Carter and the Everitts died less than two weeks later.

Ms Vorster's death on January 11 has just emerged, making five deaths in six weeks.

The cases bear a more than passing resemblance to the mysterious deaths of two young female tourists who took ill while staying in adjoining rooms at the Laleena Gueshouse on Phi Phi, a popular holiday spot a ferry ride from Phuket, in 2009.

The women - American Jill St Onge and Norwegian Julie Bergheim - died within hours. No cause of deaths has ever been established. Two other tourists fell ill, and one, Ms Bergheim's Norwegian companion, almost died.

As the latest series of mysterious deaths widened, Ms Vorster's husband Tony Pandolo told the New Zealand Herald that his wife was fit and healthy and became sick with symptoms of food poisoning before she died.

She was staying in a different Chiang Mai hotel, but the symptoms were the same.

"I kept asking about the health department, or what the next steps would be with the restaurant," Mr Pandolo said. "No one really seemed to know, and it turns out no one really did anything.

"Soraya had an autopsy at University Hospital in Chiang Mai on January 12 or 13 and we still have no results."

The Everitts' almost simultaneous deaths were ascribed to coincidental heart attacks, something most onlookers and relatives find difficult to believe.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully is demanding answers. McCully said the reponse from officials was ''less than fully convincing so we are going to ask the appropriate further questions.'' He now wants ''further scrutiny.''

Some further forensic work is still to be done on samples, he said. ''We are looking forward to seeing that too.''

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Yes, there is a Laleena link.

It's clear now that some kind of poisoning is being done, by who or why is a mystery, which is probably why the authorities are playing dumb.

Posted by JingJing on March 9, 2011 12:25

Editor Comment:

That's a pretty big call, JingJing. Nothing we've seen takes a connection that far. The more obvious and less scary explanation is that the authorities are unable to explain the causes - which is scary enough.

Andrew Drummond is reporting that the authorities have concluded the four other deaths were just a coincidence.

"At the press conference at Chiang Mai police headquarters today Chiang Mai Governor Pannada Disakul tried to allay fears of tourists caused by the four deaths in one hotel last month by saying: ''We have to admit that these deaths coming one after another, are nothing more than coincidence."

I personally wonder if there are more Thai deaths that have gone less noticed.

The lack of concern not only to find the cause but prevention of further deaths is disgusting.

I have left a review on TripAdvisor for the Chiang Mai Downtown Inn mentioning the deaths. Not sure if it will get published. Someone else stuck a milder review that did get published.

Condolences the the shocked and heartbroken families.

Posted by VFaye on March 9, 2011 12:31

I wonder if Khun Chutima could ask the important tourism people at the ITB Berlin this week about how they plan to protect the lives of the tourists they are hoping to attract; and properly and honorably investigate the deaths of those who meet their demise here. The families of all these people deserve much more than this! The TAT promo phrase 'Amazing Thailand Always Amazes You' is starting to take on a rather ironic and dark meaning.

Posted by Lana on March 9, 2011 12:33