The two young boys killed by a snake that escaped a pet store in Canada have been identified.
Brothers Noah Barthe, 5, and Connor Barthe, 7, were killed by a large African rock python that got loose from its enclosure, entered the building’s ventilation system and the upstairs apartment where the two boys slept, the CBC reports. The brothers were reportedly sleeping over at a family friend's home when the snake attacked.
“I thought they were sleeping until I seen the hole in the ceiling. Everything had fallen, and I turned the lights on and I seen this horrific scene,” Jean-Claude Savoie, the owner of the exotic pet shop in Campbellton, New Brunswick, told Global News. Savoie said the children were his “best friend’s kids.”
“The preliminary investigation has determined that the two boys were strangled by the snake,” RCMP Const. Julie Rogers-Marsh said. Autopsies of the boys will be performed on Tuesday in Saint John, a city nearly 300 miles south, authorities said.
Savoie captured the snake and handed it over to authorities. It measured between 11.5 feet to 14.7 feet long and approximately 99 pounds, authorities said. A law passed in New Brunswick allowed the sale of non-venomous snakes up to 9.8 feet long. No charges have been filed in relation to the incident.
Reptile experts said the python isn’t known to be aggressive towards humans. "It’s strange, I’m just trying to piece it together,” Lee Parker, the facilities manager at a reptile zoo Reptilia in Ontario, Canada, told CBC. “They don't go on killing sprees … it doesn't make sense to me."
Authorities agreed. "It's very, very unusual and very tragic and difficult for everyone involved," Rogers-Marsh said.
The boys’ mother, Mandy Trecartin, lives close to the pet store in Campbellton, New Brunswick. Her Facebook page is filled with photos of her children playing in parks, lakes and playgrounds. A photo posed on February 19 shows Trecartin posing with a snake she reportedly owns called Mr. Slithers.
In a comment she wrote: “He's so soft and smooth. Not like the dead leather on boots and purses. He has never bitten anyone that I know of and seems to love being out of his terrarium. Everyone ends up liking Mr. Slithers.”
The Facebook page for Reptile Ocean has been disbanded since the incident after comments criticizing the store began to flood the page.
“They were loved by every hand that touched them and the heavens said it all today as even the angels were crying,” Melissa Ellis, a family friend, told the Toronto Star, pointing to the rainfall on Monday.
Savoie said he is torn up about the fatal incident. “My body is in shock. I don’t know what to think,” he told Global News. “I feel like they’re my kids,” he said.