HALIFAX - Autopsies will be conducted later Tuesday on two young children after a python escaped a pet store in northern New Brunswick and strangled the boys while they slept in an apartment in the same building.
RCMP confirmed the deceased were a five-year-old boy and a seven-year-old boy. The boys are being identified as Connor and Noah Barthe.
Police say a criminal investigation is underway and no charges have yet been laid. The boys’ bodies were removed from the scene late Monday night.
Mounties were called to the home, in Campbellton, at about 6:30 a.m. Monday.
The python** is believed to have escaped from a store called Reptile Ocean and got into the apartment.
Store owner Jean-Claude Savoie called the incident tragic.
“My body is in shock. I don’t know what to think,” he told Global News.
Savoie said the two boys are the children of his best friend and they often sleep over in his apartment. It’s believed the boys lived in the building next to the shop.
“I feel like they’re my kids,” he said.
Savoie said he went into the living room, where the kids were sleeping, and discovered a gruesome sight.
“I thought they were sleeping until I [saw] the hole in the ceiling. I turned the lights on and I [saw] this horrific scene,” he said.
“[The snake] went through a ventilation system. I don’t understand how it did it. It went through the ceiling…and the snake fell through the living room from the ceiling,” he said.
“I found the snake. It was in a hole underneath. I pinned him down and put him in a cage,” Savoie said.
Savoie said the python is not normally handled by anyone, including the two children.
The 45-kilogram African rock python, which is between 3.5 and 4.5 metres in length, was not for sale and was one of Savoie’s pets.
Neighbours are getting over the shock of something like this happening in the small town.
“It’s very nerve-wracking. If one got out, how many else got out,” said Diane Fournier, who lives nearby.
Fournier said she often saw the two children in the neighbourhood.
“They play around my yard, around my area. I see them every day,” she said.
She’s still coming to grips with the fact that they are now gone.
“I feel for the family because losing their kids is not easy,” she said.
RCMP said the python is now in their possession.
Last year, an online petition was started to shut Reptile Ocean down. It was created by someone who said they were an ‘unsatisfied customer’.
Its goal was 1,000 signatures. It garnered 185. The petition is now closed to signatures.
In pictures: Reptile Ocean in Campbellton
**An earlier version of this story said the snake was a boa constrictor. RCMP have confirmed it was a python.
© Shaw Media, 2013