Unexplained Deaths In Chiang Mai, Thailand At The Downtown Inn

The Downtown Inn
The Downtown Inn
Laleena Guesthouse On Phi Phi
Laleena Guesthouse On Phi Phi
Source

In February of 2011, reports surfaced of the mysterious deaths of British tourists Eileen and George Everitt of the United Kingdom. The couple were found deceased in their hotel room at The Downtown Inn, in Chiang Mai Thailand on February 19th. The fact that both the deceased seemingly passed away at the same time, seemed to indicate that death from natural causes was unlikely, regardless of the fact that they were both in their 70s.

When reports began to surface of more deaths that had actually occurred in the same hotel, prior to the deaths of George and Eileen Everitt, it became clear that something more sinister might be to blame. It was later discovered that American tourist Soraya Pandola, 33, died in January of 2011 after using the swimming pool and facilities at The Downtown Inn. Then in the first week of February, 2 more deaths at the same hotel only 1 day apart. Backpacker Sarah Carter, 23 of New Zealand and Thai tour guide Waraporn Yingmahasawanont were staying just across the hall from each other, and were pronounced dead on consecutive days.

Since then the friends and family of Canadian tourist Bill Mah, who died on January 26th, and an unnamed French tourist have come forward with information that the deceased had in fact used the facilities at the same Chiang Mai hotel where the other mysterious deaths had taken place. With the deaths of 7 people all linked to the same hotel, you might assume that Thai authorities would have closed the hotel and assigned a special investigations unit to discover the cause of the deaths. As of March 22, 2011, the hotel remains open and the case appears to be closed.

These circumstances are shockingly similar to the deaths of 2 tourists on Phi Phi Island in 2009. American Jill St Onge, and her fiancé Ryan Kells had both become violently ill after checking into The Laleena Guesthouse on Phi Phi Island. Ryan and Jill were staying in room 4 at the Laleena Guesthouse, and they both became very ill shortly after checking in. Two Norweigen tourists that were staying in room 5, also became ill at the exact same time. Jill St Onge and Julie Michelle Bergheim were both pronounced dead on May 6th, 2009.

Ryan Kells was very critical of the response of Thai authorities following the death of his fiancé. He insisted that the room had smelled of chemicals, and that he felt that he and his fiancé had been poisoned. The friends and family of both victims were openly critical that no cause of death had been determined, and the Norwegian government was so unsatisfied with the official autopsy, they did their own autopsy 6 weeks later back in Norway. Unfortunately they were not able to determine the cause of death, and this mystery was left unsolved.

After reading the reports of the mystery deaths in Phi Phi, there was a public outcry among locals and expats, that knew if nothing was done to solve this case, it would almost certainly happen again. Their worst fears have seemingly come true just less than 2 years later, this time the death count is at 7 and there is every reason to believe it will climb. The hotel in question is still open for business, despite the fact that people are dying.

Andrew Drummond, a prominent freelance journalist is reporting that the owner of The Downtown Inn, is the former Mayor of the city of Chiang Mai. Khun Boonlert Buranupakorn, is also the owner of The Empress Hotel chain that owns several other hotels in Chiang Mai, as well as several shopping centers and a chain of well known restaurants. This has caused much speculation as to the transparency of the investigation. With such a powerful man involved, many people feel that any information linking these deaths to The Downtown Inn will be discarded and covered up.

Drummond reported that the Thailand Department for Disease Control said so far there are no links between the deaths of cases examined of people visiting Chiang Mai in January and February and no link to the Downtown Inn. Chiang Mai Governor Pannada Disakul reportedly said the deaths were coincidental. It would appear that the Thai authorities have already decided that these deaths were all an amazing coincidence and no further investigation will be required.

The sad truth of the matter is that this is likely not the last time we will witness an event like this in Thailand. When nothing was done to solve the mystery deaths on Phi Phi Island, any reasonable person could assume that there was potential for a repeat of this scenario. Less than 2 years later we have seen a staggering 7 deaths in Chiang Mai in less than a 2 month period, and we will likely see more. Until the authorities decide to conduct a proper investigation, and get to the bottom of these type of mysteries they will almost certainly continue to occur.


Timeline Of Mystery Deaths

• Jan. 11 — American Soraya Pandola, 33, dies of swelling of the heart muscles after becoming violently ill, she was not staying at the Downtown Inn but used facilities there. Lab results for the cause of death have not been received. Her husband Tony has demanded the Inn be closed and that he receives the lab reports.

• Jan. 26, Canadian Bill Mah’s death has been listed as the seventh associated to the Chiang Mai mystery when it was discovered he had used the hotel facilities.

• Feb. 4 — Thai tour guide Waraporn Yingmahasawanont dies in her room at the Downtown Inn after suffering apparent food poisoning.

• Feb. 5 — Backpacker Sarah Carter, 23 of New Zealand, dies in hospital after she and two friends became ill in the same hotel. Carter, died of swelling of the heart. Her room was next to the tour guide’s.

• Feb. 28 — George Everett, 78, and Eileen Everett, 74, of England, died simultaneously of heart attacks inside their Downtown Inn hotel room.

A French woman — between 23 and 33 — was identified as being the sixth person to die with similar circumstances however the name and dates are unavailable.

UPDATE! JUNE 16, 2012

Our worst fears came true, as the deaths of two more young tourists have been reported on the Island of Phi Phi. Canadian sources have named the women as Audrey Belanger, 20, and her sister Noemi, 26.

READ THE FULL STORY>>

SARAH CARTER OF NEW ZEALAND
SARAH CARTER OF NEW ZEALAND

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Comments 32 comments

Kenneth 5 years ago

I have read that this could be related to industrial chemical cleaning products that are illegally smuggled from China. Do you have any information on that?


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

@Kenneth,

We can not confirm any such rumors, however it seems reasonable that people would speculate that these people may have poisoned considering the fact that they all seem to have died of similar symptoms after visiting the same hotel. The official reports from the Thai government seem to state that they consider it to be a coincidence.


Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia

Fascinating. I recollect the Sarah Carter case. I thought it was something to do with toxic seaweed but now? Who knows? Very odd. Thank you for this.


Sherlock Holmes  5 years ago

Peter

What the hell mate? You actually believe she got poisoned from toxic seaweed? That is a bunch of horse shit!


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

I personally find it irrelevant that 2 of the 7 people that died might have eaten Japanese food. We are looking for a common link between the 7 of them, so what 2 of them might have eaten is seemingly unimportant. So far we have 7 deaths from inflamtion of the heart, all victims have the common link of visiting the same hotel and using their facilities.


beebe 5 years ago

After reading this article very well including some comments by the readers, one implies in his comment that it looks a couple of the deceased (might) have eaten Japanese food, more specifically 'Fugu', that is globefish - that's very funny...unless you are an extreme epicure of Fugu or globefish, who, very rarely though, dares to venture your life to eat its liver portion, which is too difficult to be served in (normal) Japanese restaurants because it's illegal to serve, this kind of accidents can never happen. I really cannot help but laughing at reading this type of deadshit stuff- and it's so easy to find the cause, if one is dead because of this (poisoning), by autopsy. People do have liberty of speech but this is too much. Rather, people who like Japanese food should be more careful from now on because of the recent radiation-contaminated sea water caused by our Fukushima...Big 'fugu' fans would come to Japan and not Thailand. Fugu is very expensive and usually people who can afford it do not stay in that Inn I guess (LOL).


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Beebe,

I have not read anything about the deceased eating Fugu? I am not aware of any restaurants in Chiang Mai that serve Fugu. I seriously doubt that these deaths have anything to do with Japanese food.


ArtzGirl profile image

ArtzGirl 5 years ago from San Diego

Heart swelling? This is common in a few of the descriptions of death. Have you researched phosogas? This is a chemical that causes internal organs to expand and implode. The smell of this would probably be a very strong chemical, so would match what is found in a few of the reports above.

The reason that I mention this, I've been researching chemtrails and a few reports of chemtrails show that they are adding phosogas to the aerosol plane dumps. In fact, the animal deaths in Beebe Arkansas with the birds and fish are linked with phosogas.

Phosogas is difficult to find in an autopsy... or so I've read in my research. This may be a possible cause, or another chemical with similar untraceable elements.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

ArtzGirl, where would you find phosogas? Is it possible that it would be a result of mixing the wrong chemicals used for cleaning the swimming pool? Many people think that these deaths are related to illegal industrial cleaning products.


russellgrimes 5 years ago

If you think this is bad stay away from NongKhai, the mugging and violence all for a fe baht is out of control and who Cares???? Not the police because they get the kickbacks.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

The 60 Minutes report that the death of Sarah Carter is related to an insecticide that is banned in most countries makes plenty of sense...However, what about Bill Mah and Sonya Pandola who were not staying at the hotel, but died of similar circumstances after using the hotel restaurant and pool? I am not sure that this case is solved until we can say how they could have been exposed to this chemical? You would assume this would be applied to the beds in the rooms, so using the restaurant and pool, they should not have been exposed to this chemical?


mai 5 years ago

There are several facts most press don’t seem to want reported, which I gleaned from this Tripadvisor discussion (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293917-i9325... Inn_ Dangerous_ Place_ to_ Stay-Chiang Mai.html see first post) and elsewhere:

1.The father of the New Zealand girl has refused to have autopsies performed on his daughter (!) which makes all investigations at best suspect. You’d think someone so gung-ho about finding out the “truth” would, you know, let people perform tests.

2.Seven travelers died; out of these only four stayed at the hotel. The rest stayed at different guesthouses, hotels, whatever.

3.The dead New Zealand girl, Sarah Carter, spent only hours inside the hotel. They checked in, went out to eat in the Night Bazaar area, came back and soon got sick. Even the thailandtraveltragedies website, which has an account of the events, confirms this. Possible window for exposure to toxins? About five-seven hours. Medical experts et al have already stated that exposure to it via skin/inhaling isn’t likely to cause death (ingestion is a different thing, but I’d like to think Sarah and her friends weren’t trying to eat the bedsheets). See this page for more info: http://www.chlorpyrifos.com/myths-vs-facts.htm So it could be that they had fruits or something that’d been sprayed with this pesticide, but again going by the girls’ account on the dad’s website they ate nothing in the hotel. Oops?

I don’t know about anyone else, but as MrCycling said so succinctly on that Trip Advisor thread: “Yes, the deaths were sad and unfortunate. But crucifying a business based on speculation and not fact is also sad and unfortunate.” Just being fair, you know?


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

@mai,

I certainly have no interest in crucifying a business based on speculation. I agree that the theory that these deaths were caused by a bed bug insecticide is full of holes. Unfortunately this is not the first time a tragedy like this has taken place in Thailand. If you have read my article carefully you will also see a similar case that happened on Phi Phi Island a few years earlier.

I don't know what caused these deaths, but I do know that until the truth comes out, we can expect to see history repeat itself. This is not something that should be swept under the rug!


sunbeams profile image

sunbeams 5 years ago from Cairns , Australia

Really sad...and scary.


Curt 5 years ago

There are as many, if not more, differences in these cases than there are similarities. The single "connection" appears to be location, and even that isn't a constant. Two victims didn't stay at the hotel and one was sick before arrival.

The Chlorpyrifos connection has been ruled out, mostly based on the statements of Sarah Carter's two friends, who where also sickened. Besides, it would be practically unheard of for someone to die from such inhalation or contact. Acute fatalities from these chemicals are usually deliberate suicides, by drinking substantial quantities.

As this is a very busy area of Chiangmai, if there is a true connection, it could be from many sources around the area of the Downtown Inn.

The international investigation has been completed. Hopefully, the results will be released soon.

Unfortunately, they will probably be inconclusive.

BTW

Here's a clip from Channel 3 News. At about 01:30, somewhat under his breath, Sarah Carter's father says Chiangmai hospital took some tissue samples, but we "didn't allow a full autopsy; we just didn't want it at the time". I don't believe any autopsy has been performed since, either.

http://www.3news.co.nz/Was-Sarah-Carters-death-an-...


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

It was disturbing to hear the father say that Sarah had witnessed the body of a Thai woman being carried down the fire escape just one day before she died at The Downtown Inn. This is something that has not been reported in local Thai media or local English language media. Unfortunately the authorities have shown little interest in solving this case, and it is likely not the last time we will see this kind of tragic loss of life in the land of smiles.


Curt 5 years ago

THAILAND IS NOT SAFE !!!!!!

It always irritates me when I read forums where everyone says Thailand is so safe; "Safer than most Western countries", "probably safer than your hometown" and other reassuring drivel. Thailand is not safe. Everyone knows how dangerous and scary the nasty old USA is. Well, they probably don't know that Thailand's murder rate is actually higher than the States'. Consumer protection is almost non-existent. They can't spell OSHA and government agencies are rife with corruption.

Unfortunately, the Carter's thought Thailand was "A-OK", a tropical paradise.

Although everyone can come and enjoy this fantasy, it is a very shabbily constructed facade. Looking good, with little substance, it a Thai tradition!

------

"It was disturbing to hear the father say that Sarah had witnessed the body of a Thai woman being carried down the fire escape"

I haven't seen a single "fire escape" on any Thai building. Has anyone else? Sometimes there are exits labeled "fire", but they are simply hallways. These are usually locked. That's what is disturbing!

Whether it's the Hilton, the Oriental, Four Seasons, or the even Downtown Inn, no hotel is going to transport a body through the main lobby. Some call it "conspiracy". Some simply see it as discretion. Whatever the incentive, no one is going to risk making a "scene".

-----

Thailand is a bit of a lawless society. That lawlessness is what has created the environment that many come for. If Thailand had, and enforced, the same laws and safety requirements as in the West, it probably wouldn't be the affordable party destination that it is, nor would it have the appeal.

Unfortunately, this lawlessness leaves one to look out for themselves. One can't come here to do the things they can't do at home, and then expect to switch back to homeland standards when things turn sour.

Yes, situations such as this will continue to be swept aside. But, this isn't necessarily because of any "conspiracy".

Programs like CSI has led everyone to believe that proving the impossible is possible. Thai agencies simply don't have the resources. In this case, given the hospital's report, and examination of the scene, the police didn't find anything criminal. The filed the report.

Thai people are also much more accepting of death. Buddhism teaches that death is a natural part of life. Unless there is a reason to suspect "foul play", they will accept and move on.

But, if a Thai doesn't accept the finding, they have the option of pursuing the case themselves. A private party can fund an investigation. And, if evidence points to guilt, they can also fund the prosecution. Been there; done that!

Fortunately, this process is not allowed in most Western courts. Such investigations are presumed biased, and rightly so.

------

Mr Carter's website could have helped raise awareness that one needs to be one one's guard. Unfortunately, it appears he has created just another "I Hate Thailand" rant-fest.

We already have ThaiVisa.com for that!


Curt 5 years ago

The report is in. What a tap dance!

Definitely sounds like they are trying to tell everyone what they want to hear, without telling them anything!

http://www.3news.co.nz/Portals/0/images/Chiang%20M...


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Curt,

I think the report falls short of explaining what caused these unexplained deaths, however what the report does confirm is that they are likely caused by toxins introduced at The Downtown Inn. Meanwhile the hotel has remained open this entire time, so my take on the report is that seven people lost their lives and we think they were poisoned, but we really aren't going to do anything about it!


Curt 5 years ago

The report does state the obvious, "we found nothing." However, it actually does say "what they are going to do about it." That is why I think that this report is the first actual "conspiracy" of the whole mess.

All the prescribed steps to be taken address tourists. This tells me that all this is a show for the foreign audience. I mean really, aren't Thais affected by these chemical agents?

As far as confirmation of the likely cause is concerned, rather than take the word of a panel, appointed to put the right spin on it and, after getting the information, took over a week to spin it, why don't we hear from from New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry: http://goo.gl/kyFcr

It's pretty much the same thing I said in one of the preceding posts.

I seriously doubt that there is anyone reading this thread that could have a more personal reason to doubt the competence of the Thai authorities. We have had first hand dealing in investigations and pretty much had to handle the investigation, and prosecution, ourselves.

I believe too much TV has made everyone believe in forensic miracles. In this case, I believe it is just that the fact is that nobody has a clue of what happened. But, because that is "unacceptable", they came up with something.

In a sad irony, Mr Carter has now stated that he is disappointed that they didn't investigate deeper, earlier. I'll refer back to a previous post in this thread.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Let us not forget about Jill St Onge and Julie Michelle Bergheim who both died in similar circumstances just two years earlier on Phi Phi Island. If these deaths were caused by a toxic pesticide, somebody out there will have knowledge about it. Hotel employees, management or ownership potentially have information that they are withholding for obvious reasons. It seems that very little pressure has been put on the Laleena Guesthouse, or The Downtown Inn. The authorities could likely get answers if they rustled some feathers, but really .. does anyone really believe that the authorities want to find the truth?


Curt 5 years ago

DO NOT GET ME WRONG. I am, in no way, trying to defend Thai authorities. They will take every measure to avoid accountability. My distain for them comes from multiple, personal, tragic experiences, not from bar stool rants and internet blogs.

My latest endearing moment was when Suthep Thaugsuban explained that my brother-in-law's death was apparently by chasing down a bullet last year. Has anyone else reading this had a relative killed in Thailand, with those responsible making jokes over it? Yes, I have plenty of reasons to doubt Thai authorities.

BUT, until this latest report, I don't believe anybody consciously covered up anything. They simply didn't and don't have a clue. It also appears that the international team of scientists don't have any real clue either.

" ... does anyone really believe that the authorities want to find the truth?"

No, but, does anyone think that, in this case, the Thai police COULD? Hell no; it's way above their pay grade! Thai "CSI" are the same guys with different jumpsuits!

Anyone living here should know that the vast majority of any crimes "solved" are solved by confession. Very few are ever solved by investigation and trial.

-----

Personally, I think the obsession with the "Downtown Inn" is part of the reason no one can find a solution. I think it's actually been a distraction.

The tests indicated chemical or "biotoxin". The Thai report emphasizes chemical.

IMHO, this is probably because they figure people will believe that they can "clean up" chemical problems. "Biotoxin" is just far too scary!

If the deaths are from poisoning, they would have to be from ingestion. It's extremely doubtful that any person would die from inhalation, let alone 4 people.

A nearby vendor would better explain the time differences and the deaths of the those who didn't actually stay at the hotel.

It could also explain why we have had no new cases. Maybe the responsible party knows what has happened, and either changed their recipe, or packed up and split.

It would be interesting to know if any vendors have come and gone during the timeline. Has anyone changed their product? I wonder if these questions were asked?

I am not familiar with the Phi Phi cases. They could very well have been a big cover up. But, I don't let previous acts, and personal feelings, taint my objectivity.

In any case, I'm not ready to pick up my torch, grab some rope, and head to Chiangmai for a lynching!


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Curt,

If I had to guess what caused these deaths, I would say the most likely cause would be a heavy duty chemical cleaner or pesticide that was used by the hotel. I would guess that the Phi Phi case was caused by the same chemical. Until that chemical is identified it will likely be the cause of more deaths. Of course I am not a scientist, and this is just a guess (based on the info available). I am not interested in punishing anyone for these deaths, because that solves nothing, however I don't understand why The Downtown Inn wasn't closed pending an investigation.


Curt 5 years ago

Travelasia,

Although I'm not an expert, all my studies were in math and science, until I dropped out because college got in the way of my drinking. After getting sober, my professional career was testing data circuits for what is, once again, AT&T. Now that I am retired, I still try to analyze everything!

I have gone through reams of information available, far more that what has been offered up, openly, in the papers and blogs.

I even paid a visit to the Institute of Forensic Science, here in Bangkok. But, as this case in not a criminal investigation, they aren't involved. That didn't however, stop them from discussing the situation for a couple of hours. There was no sense of being brushed off. Dr Portip doesn't run that kind of operation!

NZ Channel 3, on a tip from "doctor" Ron McDowall, has planted the "chlorpyrifos" seed in everyone's head. They pointed out that traces of CY were found in the hotel. Everyone, sadly including the Carters, saw this as the answer. As with most things in the "news", once planted, it grows and often sticks.THEY WERE POISONED!

Since that program, three of New Zealand's top experts in the field, fired off a letter berating Channel 3 and "doctor" McDowall. They called the entire theory, basically, BS. Did anyone happen to read that letter? It's a bit hard to dig up.

John Reeves, the top toxicologist for NZ's MAF, states, in the video I linked, that he thinks the conclusions in the report a bit "odd".

--------

But, once again, presuming it's chemical poisoning ...

According to the actual experts in toxicology (the good "doctor" McDowall is an engineer, not an MD or pathologist), "if" these cases are chemical poisoning, most fatalities would require ingestion. Simple "exposure" to such chemicals doesn't cause such a rapid onset of death.

Because they were all staying in "nearby rooms" everyone assumes it was the rooms. Under what scenario would they drink the stuff, in their rooms, at the hotel?

But, if there was, somehow, a high enough concentration in the air, there would be a noticeable odor. No unusual odor was was reported by the survivors. Before the onset of symptoms, no one can think of anything "unusual".

But then, there is one survivor that isn't saying much ........................... hmmmmmm

The Downtown Inn wasn't closed because, as the mayor of Chiangmai once pointed out, Thai law does not allow it. If they did close it, and there was no conclusive evidence to hold the hotel responsible, those who closed it could, themselves, face legal action. In some matters, individual's rights out way "the common good". There are similar situations in the West.


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

Isn't the owner of the hotel the former mayor of Chiang Mai? And who is this survivor that isn't saying much?


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 5 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

BTW,

I already stated above in this thread that I thought that the claims by NZ channel 3 did not make any sense. They claimed that small traces of pesticides used to kill bed bugs were responsible for the deaths. This doesn't explain the deaths of Sonya Pandola and Bill Mah who never actually stayed at the Downtown Inn, but had used the facilities there. I am not an expert, and I can not speculate on what exact chemical could have caused these deaths, however I refuse to believe that an odorless chemical capable of causing rapid onset of death does not exist. Nobody knows what happened, and all I am saying is .. that just isn't good enough! The Thai Authorities shrugging their shoulders and smiling .. that just doesn't cut it!


Curt 5 years ago

Yes, they all breathed in some obscure, odorless pesticide that the police didn't find when searching the exterminator's business, because the hotel owner tipped him off, because he didn't want the exterminator blamed, and the current authorities are covering it all up.

That work for you?

I'll take my leave now. Enjoy ...

And yes, the police are smart asses who will be of little help if the shit hits your fan. Mai pen rai ...


William Goss 4 years ago

This is very informative reading, what are your sources? Are you a local?


TravelinAsia profile image

TravelinAsia 4 years ago from Thailand/Southeast Asia Author

William,

I think if you read the article, I have provided links to my sources, such as Andrew Drummond, Phuketwan, Phuket Gazette, and various other media outlets. Due to the nature of the case, I don't think any private citizens would appreciate being named as a source.

Thank you for reading.


Esther 23 months ago

I don't know who you wrote this for but you helped a brhoter out.


Patapapara 23 months ago

I think people who are smionkg were unaware the harmful effects of cigarette when they started smionkg probably due to ignorant of young age. By the time they realized smionkg is bad, they will have already become addicted to it.It seems we human being is destined to get entangled with all kinds of issues which are difficult to solve.


Dina 23 months ago

Thanks Barbara! It was a pretty idlylic place, and very very rustic. We saw a very poisonous tropical centipede, and apparently, there are lots of venomous snakes on the island. Wiley's got some really amazing pictures he'll post soon too.

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