Two Canadian brothers apparently squeezed to death by a 15-foot African python were “typical children who enjoyed life to the maximum” and spent their last day alive playing with animals on a farm, a relative said Tuesday.
The boys were at a sleepover at an apartment above a pet store when the snake struck. Canadian police said it slithered through the top of its floor-to-ceiling cage, out of a hole connected to a ventilation system, and dropped from the living room ceiling when a pipe broke.
Autopsies were being conducted Tuesday on the brothers, identified by authorities as Connor Barthe, 6, and Noah Barthe, 4. They were found dead Monday morning in the living room of the apartment.
They enjoyed their last day — attending a barbecue and swimming at a pool, and going to a farm to play with llamas and goats, said Dave Rose, whose niece is the boys’ mother.
“Connor would have entered the second grade this year, and Noah was extremely excited to join his big brother by starting kindergarten,” Rose told reporters. “They were two typical children who enjoyed life to the maximum.”
Sgt. Alain Tremblay of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told reporters that the snake was an African rock python, which herpetologists say is the longest snake native to Africa. The African rock python is non-venomous, can grow to 20 feet and kills prey by squeezing it.
The African rock python is not allowed in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, where the boys were killed, said Anne Bull, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources.
Tremblay said the snake had been destroyed.
A Department of Natural Resources official, Steven Benteau, told the Canadian Broadcasting Co. that someone who owned such a snake can be charged under the Fish and Wildlife Act. It was not clear whether Canadian authorities might take such a step or what the penalty might be.
Canadian police said their major crimes unit was investigating, with the help of a reptile expert from a zoo.
“At this time we are treating this as a crime scene,” Tremblay said.
The pet store, Reptile Ocean, posted a message on its Facebook page Monday expressing sympathies to the children’s relatives. The statement called it “a terrible accident without a meaning.” The Facebook page was deactivated after a series of negative comments were posted.
The deputy mayor of the city of Campbellton, Ian Comeau, told The Canadian Press that the store was licensed to operate and that “everything was according to our bylaws, the provincial guidelines. He called the deaths of the boys a shock.
“It is unbelievable,” he said.
First published August 6 2013, 12:45 PM