Mourners remember Quebec sisters found dead in Thailand
Published Saturday, June 30, 2012 3:21PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 1, 2012 8:56AM EDT
Mourners gathered in a small eastern Quebec town Saturday afternoon for the funeral of two sisters who died while on holiday in Thailand two weeks ago.
Family and friends paid tribute to Audrey and Noemi Belanger at a church near Pohenegamook, Que., where the girls were raised and where their father owns a grocery store.
The priest presiding over the mass, Father Jean-Roch Castonguay, called it "a sombre celebration” that would also “leave a message of hope."
Girls who were working at the family’s grocery store on Saturday told CTV News that Audrey, aged 20, and Noemi, aged 25, were both very involved in their community, studied hard and had spent a year planning their trip to Thailand.
Noemi Belanger was also a seasoned traveller, who had studied in China and in Paris.
Family members said the girls’ parents maintained regular contact with them while they were away. A week before they were to leave for Thailand, their mother, spurred by a bad feeling, wrote them an email asking them to skip that portion of their trip and return home.
The girls' bodies were found on June 15 in their hotel room in the Phi Phi islands.
Officials in Thailand said they found no evidence of foul play, and suspect the girls were accidentally poisoned, perhaps by strong cleaning products used in their hotel room.
Autopsies on both bodies were performed in Montreal. However, it could be weeks before the final results are known.
On Saturday, the family had placed the girls’ travel books, cameras, sunglasses and other articles next to their photographs at the funeral home near the church.
With files from The Canadian Press and a report by CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian