A python is being blamed for the strangling deaths of two young brothers who were sleeping in an apartment above a reptile store from which the snake escaped during the night.
The bodies of the boys who were brothers, ages five and seven, were found Monday morning in an apartment in Campbellton in New Brunswick.
An African rock python escaped in the store, Reptile Ocean, during the night and managed to slither into a ventilation shaft where it gained access to the children, authorities told CBC News
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The boys – identified on Tuesday as Noah Barthe, 5, and Connor Barthe, 7 – apparently were asleep when the attack occurred, CBC News reported. They were having a sleepover party with the reptile shop owner's son, who was later found unharmed in another room of the apartment.
A preliminary investigation has led police to believe "the two boys were strangled by the snake," said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Julie Rogers-Marsh, and an autopsy was scheduled for later Tuesday to confirm what caused the deaths.
Initial reports mistakenly identified the snake as a boa constrictor, according to the reptile shop's owner, Jean-Claude Savoie.
African rock pythons typically kill their prey by constricting the victim. A non-venomous snake, they can reach up to 20 feet and have been known to kill prey as large as antelopes and even crocodiles.
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"I can tell you it's a criminal investigation right now to determine if any criminal act is responsible for the death of the two boys," RCMP Corporal Alain Tremblay told CBC News. So far Savoie has not been charged with any crime.
Campbellton Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau said Reptile Ocean was licensed to operate and "everything was according to our bylaws, to the provincial guidelines."
"This is a tragedy. The city is in shock," Comeau told CBC News.
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