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American tourist death in Thailand still a mystery

Jun 01, 2009

Although Thai officials have tentatively blamed the death of a young tourist from Seattle on food poisoning, her family doubts this was the case, particularly after a pathologist they hired indicated that her lungs were completely congested.

Jill St. Onge, a 27-year-old artist from Seattle, died on May 2, shortly after her fiancée, Ryan Kells, found her struggling to breathe in their guest house room on Phi Phi Island off the southern coast of Thailand. Kells said that he rushed her to the local hospital, and that she died there not long afterward.

Kells said to a CNN reporter that he was certain that she suffocated to death: “I am not a doctor, but I know when someone can’t breathe.”

The situation became even more mysterious when Julie Bergheim, a Norwegian tourist staying at the same guest house, experienced the same symptoms later the same day and also died.

Local police were quoted in the Thai media as saying the investigation was focussed on food poisoning from seafood. Police Maj. Gen. Pasin Nokasul said to the Phuket Gazette that they were still waiting for lab results before they could make a final determination as to cause of death.

Kells commented that if food poisoning had been the cause, then there most likely would have been more victims.

American tourist death in Thailand still a mystery
A memorial to Jill St. Onge is taking shape at her former workplace / Image via


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