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Quebec sisters’ deaths likely caused by pesticide intoxication: coroner

WATCH: A Quebec coroner is blaming a chemical used to kill bedbugs for the deaths of Canadian sisters in Thailand, in 2012. But as Mike Armstrong reports, the coroner’s findings clash with those of Thai experts who investigated the death.

MONTREAL — A Quebec coroner has released her report into the deaths of two Quebec sisters who died under mysterious circumstances in Thailand in 2012.

Pohénégamook, Que. residents, Audrey Bélanger and Noémi Bélanger left for Thailand on May 18, 2012 but just under a month after they arrived, the two girls were dead.

Discovered in the Phi Phi Palms Residence, a hotel on Phi Phi Island, both showed signs of being violently ill, and had blue-tinged finger-and-toe nails.

READ MOREAutopsies to be performed on Quebec sisters who died mysteriously in Thailand

“Around 2 p.m. on June 15, 2012, after not having heard from the girls for 48 hours, hotel personnel decided to open the door to their room with a master key,” the report read.

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“Very quickly, staff could see that the girls were in their bed and were not moving.”

At the time, autopsies were conducted locally on the bodies of two sisters in the hopes these may shed more light on the cause of death.

This investigation suggested the presence of diethyltoluamide (DEET), a chemical used to kill insects, may have led to the women’s deaths.

Quebec autopsy report results

The Quebec coroner’s report confirmed the women’s deaths were linked to an unidentified substance likely to be found in pesticides.

However, coroner Renée Roussel suggested the quantity of DEET mentioned in the Thai report would not have been toxic or lethal.

Toxicologists said they believed phosphine, a compound chemical also used as a pesticide, may have been the cause of death.

Although hotel fumigation using phosphine is illegal in Thailand, the coroner’s report suggested the product may have been used and the women were exposed to it.

Watch: Jamie Orchard interviews Dr. Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s office of Science and Society.

What is phosphine?

According to the report, phosphine is one of few deadly substances that leaves little trace in the environment or the body.

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Considered is a highly poisonous gas, it is released from aluminum phosphide, a chemical compound used as a pesticide and insecticide.

The deadly substance has also been linked to the recent poisoning of five children in Fort McMurray, Alberta, which resulted in two deaths.

READ MORE: What poisoned 5 children in Fort McMurray?

According to the deputy chief of operations for the Fort McMurray fire department, the family brought the insecticide home from Pakistan, where they were on vacation.

Coroner’s report in full

Read the reports in their entirety below [in French]:
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— With files from La Presse Canadienne

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