May 27, 2009 at 8:05 AM

Did West Seattle woman die of food poisoning in Thailand?

Source of Article:


Posted by Nick Provenza

The death of a 27-year-old Seattle woman in Thailand earlier this month may have been food poisoning, according to the Phuket Gazette Web site in Thailand.

Preliminary lab tests show that Jill St. Onge of West Seattle and Julie Bergheim, 22, of Norway, had signs of microbial infection in blood samples taken from the two women, Krabi Provincial Police Commander Maj. Gen Pasin Noksakul told the Gazette.

Gen Pasin said that the results from the Forensics Institute were preliminary and not yet official, but it's possible the two women ate contaminated seafood.

The two women, who stayed in adjacent rooms at the Laleena guesthouse on Phi Phi Don Island at the beginning of May, died within hours of each other at Phi Phi Island Hospital after severe vomiting.

In blood samples taken from Bergheim, researchers found three different kinds of potentially harmful microbes, while blood samples from Onge had one, Gen Pasin said.

Although it is not normal procedure to release results until they are official, Gen Pasin said he wanted to quell widespread speculation over the cause of the deaths on Internet blog and chat forums.

Such theories have included exposure to toxic gas from a nearby wastewater treatment plant, problems with the air conditioning in the guest rooms, accidental overdoses of the 4 X 100 drug cocktail that has been gaining popularity in the south over the past year and even murder by poisoning.

The Forensics Institute is continuing to study the microbes to positively identify them and test their virility, according to the Gazette.

"I don't know when the official results will be released, but the commander of the Royal Thai Police has ordered the lab work expedited because the embassies of the two deceased tourists want to know the cause of the death as soon as possible," he told the Gazette.

Gen Pasin ruled out the possibility that [methane] gas emanating from the nearby wastewater treatment plant might have been the cause, saying the plant had been in the area for a long time with no ill effects on local people or tourists.

As you can imagine, Onge's family wants answers. Family members spread the word about Jill's death via Facebook, where she had hundreds of friends.

When Onge and her fiancé, Ryan Kells, took off three months ago for a tour of Southeast Asia, her family was worried. But the couple wanted an adventure. Jill taught art through Seattle Parks and Recreation, and was trying to start her own silk-screening business. She also tended bar at Shadowland in West Seattle. Kells is a glassblower.

With only days before they were to head home, they decided to "splurge" on a room with air conditioning on the island of Koh Phi Phi. That evening, Jill started feeling sick, and they chalked it up to food poisoning. Within a few hours, it was clear she needed to be hospitalized.





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