A Thai report identifying a toxic chemical or pesticide as the likely cause of New Zealand girl Sarah Carter's death is “significant”, the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Ministry says.
Carter, 23, died, and her Kiwi friends Emma Langlands and Amanda Eliason became gravely ill while on holiday at the Downtown Inn in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, in February.
Thai authorities have ruled Carter was exposed to chemicals similar to those found in pesticides before she died, but say her precise cause of death cannot be confirmed.
The report also concluded that four other people who died in Chiang Mai between January 11 and February 19 - a 47-year-old Thai woman staying in the room next to the New Zealanders, an English couple in their 70s staying on a different floor, and an American woman in a different hotel - were likely to have been killed by pesticide exposure.
A spokesman for New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the report had identified the likely cause of death in the Carter case to be exposure to a toxic chemical or pesticide.
“This is a significant development for Thai authorities to now recognise there is a linkage between the death of Sarah Carter and others.
“It is also significant to point to some form of toxic material. The Thai authorities have said its unlikely to have been bacterial or viral.”
A report into the death of Carter and five others was released by the Thai Public Health Ministry on Tuesday afternoon.
“The three New Zealand women had severe metabolic acidosis (abnormal acid level in circulation) and two of them suffered myocardial injury (injury to the heart muscle),” the report said.
“A Thai tour guide was in a room adjacent to that of the three New Zealand women. The investigation found that it is very likely the cause of the illnesses of these four women is the same given the timing of the onset of their illness and the proximity of their rooms. The cause is unlikely to be bacterial or viral.”
However, the Ministry said despite the best efforts of the Thai authorities in undertaking an “exhaustive investigation” the specific agents that caused the deaths and illnesses in these events could not be identified
“Investigators spent five months pursuing numerous hypotheses about potential causes. More than 350 drug, chemical and organism tests were done in each fatal case and more than 1250 tests were done on the New Zealand case.”
Thai authorities have made nine recommendations within the report, including:
The setting up of a panel to investigate and recommend stricter measures for the use of chemicals, including pesticides in hotels and market areas.
The establishment of a new channel to receive notification of tourists and expatriates becoming ill.
Hotel operators were to be compelled to use only licensed pest control companies and their contracts must specify which chemicals were to be used and samples collected and sent for testing by the authorities twice a year.