Two Boys Killed By Python Died From Asphyxiation

Campbellton, New Brunswick — The two Canadian boys who were killed by a python while they slept died from asphyxiation, according to preliminary autopsy results.

Noah and Connor Barthe were strangled to death by a 100-pound, 15-foot long African rock python Monday night. The brothers, ages 4 and 6, respectively, were visiting the apartment of a friend whose father owns a pet store on the first floor.

Jean-Claude Savoie, the owner of the pets shop, found the boys’ bodies Monday morning and said he noticed a hole that allowed the snake to move from the pet shop on the first floor to the second floor apartment. Savoie said he didn’t hear anything during the night.

Contrary to initial reports, the python didn’t escape from the pet store. It was actually living in a large glass enclosure in Savoie’s apartment. Sgt. Alain Tremblay said the snake escaped through a small hole in the ceiling connected to the ventilation system. As the snake was crawling through the vents, the pipe collapsed and the snake fell out.

No charges have been filed, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they are treating the deaths as a criminal investigation.

Authorities said Wednesday they planned to remove the other animals from the pet store.

Anne Bell, a spokeswoman for the New Brunswick Natural Resources Department, said the African rock python isn’t permitted in the province. She also said the department was unaware of the snake before the deaths happened. The African rock python has been illegal in New Brunswick since 2009.

“If we discover any illegal exotic animals, they will be seized and efforts will be made to relocate them to accredited zoos,” she said.

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Snake expert John Kendrick said it was possible the python got scared when it fell out of the vent, and that it clung to whatever it landed on.

“Once they are in constricting mode, any part of their body that is touching something that moves, they’ll wrap it,” he said. “I’ve seen snakes with two different prey items at the same time, one with the back of the body and one with the front. It could have been an incident like that.”

Hundreds of people turned out for a vigil remember Noah and Connor Barthe at a candlelight Wednesday night.

[Photo credit: Hannes Steyn / Flickr]