Hundreds gather at vigil for N.B. boys killed by python
Published Wednesday, August 7, 2013 6:08AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 7, 2013 10:40PM EDT
Hundreds of people gathered at a Campbellton, N.B., vigil Wednesday evening to remember two young brothers killed by a large python during a sleepover at a friend’s apartment.
The community mourned Noah Barthe, 4, and his brother Connor, 6, as preliminary autopsy results showed that the boys were asphyxiated.
"While we now have some preliminary information, investigators still have to wait for other test results to come back and for the final report," Sgt. Alain Tremblay of the New Brunswick RCMP said in a statement earlier Wednesday.
"We recognize that this has touched the hearts of people across the world and that people want to know how this could have happened. Our investigators are looking at all aspects of this tragic incident, and that will take some time."
The vigil opened with a moment of silence, as the boys’ family members, friends and strangers came together to pay their respects.
"I felt it was time to bring the community together and pay our mutual respects and honour the lives that are not just gone, but that were lived by two beautiful boys," organizer Cindy Levesque said.
The vigil took place in a park featuring a giant salmon replica – a trademark of Campbellton – approximately a block away from where the brothers died.
Police said a 15-foot African rock python escaped its enclosure in an apartment where the boys were sleeping over, slithered through a ventilation system and fell through a ceiling into the living room.
The boys' bodies were discovered by the owner of the apartment, Jean-Claude Savoie, early Monday morning.
Savoie also owns an exotic animal store, Reptile Ocean, located below the apartment.
The snake has since been euthanized. The RCMP said a necropsy showed that the python was in overall good health, but investigators are still waiting on the final report.
The boys’ deaths have shocked the northern New Brunswick community, where friends and family have described the brothers as having a love for life.
During a news conference Tuesday, Tremblay would not comment on whether Savoie had the right to keep such a snake, saying the investigation is still in the early stages.
However, a spokesperson with the provincial government said Savoie did not have the permit required to house the python, adding that the snake is generally only allowed in accredited zoos.
Comeau noted that there's some anger in Campbellton toward Savoie, but he stressed that people should refrain from rushing to judgement.
"He's grieving," Comeau said. "He's got a son that lost two good friends and it’s important we let the people out there know to let him grieve."
Paul Goulet, owner of Little Ray's Reptile Zoo in Ottawa, said it's very rare for a snake to strangle humans, as they’re not considered a food source.
The brothers were at a farm before the python attack, according a relative, and they were handling animals.
"That would be an explanation of how the snake could potentially mistake (the boys) for a food item," Goulet said.
"They rely heavily on their sense of smell and they have an unbelievably sensitive sense of smell," he said. "They would smell a goat or some other animals and not recognize that this isn't a food source."
Goulet said snakes have the ability to constrict their prey within seconds.
"I hate to think about what happened that night, but if those children were asleep, by the time they even woke up and realized what was happening and tried to scream, it would potentially be too late.
A funeral for the two brothers has been planned for Saturday at 3 p.m. ET at St. Thomas Aquinas church. The boys will be buried together in one casket.
The brothers’ mother told CTV Atlantic that they lived every moment together and so she wanted them to go to their final resting place together.
With a report from CTV’s Atlantic bureau chief Todd Battis and files from The Canadian Press