Mystery hotel deaths linked to bed bug pesticide 

JASMINE FRANKLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:57 AM ET

A New Zealand media station has discovered shocking evidence linking a string of tourists' deaths - including an Edmonton man - at a Thailand hotel to possible insecticide poisoning.


The country's TV3 60 Minutes reporters travelled to the Downtown Inn in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where seven tourists - including Edmontonian Bill Mah - died after staying overnight or using the facilities of the hotel since January.


The investigation found nearly all of the deaths have been linked to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart suspected to have been caused by food or water contamination.


The station conducted an undercover probe, where reporters posed as hotel guests and secretly the took samples from the room where New Zealand tourist Sarah Carter, 23, died.


Lab test results found small traces of the insecticide chlorpyrifos (CY) inside the room - a chemical that can be used to get rid of bed bugs.


"I'm not the specialist," said Dr. Surasing, Chiang Mai's head of public health. "But it's possible that they mixed together the wrong chemicals."


United Nations chemical expert, Dr. Ron McDowall, told 60 minutes he was confident Carter's symptoms and death were linked to CY poisoning.
The results were also sent to various experts in New Zealand and Italy for testing.


"Their reaction was that it is clear, it's CY poisoning - we've seen it before, the symptoms are the same, the pathology is the same and the proxy indicates that the chemical was in the room," said McDowall, adding the poisoning is difficult to confirm from blood samples.


"The chemical is absorbed by the body very quickly. It only has a half-life of a day so it can be very hard to predict the event."


The governor of Chiang Mai sat down with the media station and claimed the tourists' deaths were nothing but coincidence and that "it is a very bad occasion and such bad luck for that hotel."


Carter's parents say they are relieved to have an answer in the death of their daughter but hope future deaths and illnesses can be avoided.


"Hopefully there will be some action taken now and it won't be like the other cases where it is swept under the carpet and is just an unexplained death," said Carter's mother, Anna.


News reports across the world have been covering the mysterious deaths revolving around the hotel located in Chiang Mai, the northern Thai capital.
The death toll now stacks up to seven between January and March of this year - all with similar circumstances - almost all of the tourists' symptoms began with severe chest pain, and progressed to vomiting and fainting.


Edmontonian Bill Mah, found dead in his hotel room of "suspected natural cause," Jan. 26 after reportedly visiting the hotel in question.
Alberta Health and Wellness officials were contacted and are looking into the matter.


Jasmine.franklin@sunmedia.ca


- with files from Andrew Drummond and TV3 60 Minutes


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