Bélanger sisters likely died of pesticide intoxication, coroner says

The coroner’s investigation into the deaths of two Quebecers in Thailand in June 13, 2012 was pegged to a unidentified substance likely present in pesticides.

Renée Roussel’s report into the deaths of Audrey and Noémi Bélanger, 20 and 25, states that autopsies conducted in Bangkok four days after the sisters’ bodies were discovered concluded the two young women had not died as the result of violence or trauma.

The sisters from Pohénégamook were both found dead in their room at the Phi Phi Palms Residence in the Phi Phi Islands, south of Thailand.

Pathologists in Thailand confirmed the presence of diethyltoluamide (DEET), a chemical used to kill insects.

Further studies completed in Quebec noted that the quantity of DEET mentioned in the Thai report would not have been toxic or lethal.

Nevertheless, coroner Roussel says she believes the women were likely intoxicated because both had been violently ill at the same time.

Toxicologists believe phosphine, a compound chemical also used as a pesticide, may have been the root cause of death. Phosphine is one of few substances that can kill and leave little trace in the environment or in the body, according to the coroner’s report.

“Phosphine is a pesticide that kills all that lives and all that breathes,” states the report. The product is efficient, cheap and widely available in Asia.

Though phosphine fumigation in hotel rooms is forbidden in Thailand, the coroner says the product may still have been used.