Colette Belanger, the great aunt of Audrey and Noemi Belanger, shows a family photo. The two sisters were found dead in Thailand on Friday.
Credits: Gilles Lebel/QMI AGENCY
MONTREAL - The small Quebec town of Pohenegamook is in mourning after two young residents were found dead on a popular tourist island in southern Thailand on Friday.
Audrey Belanger, 20 and her sister Noemi, 25, were well-known in the town of 3,000, located about 200 km northeast of Quebec City, close to Maine's northern border with Quebec.
Family members and friends who spoke with QMI Agency said the women came from a well-regarded family. Their father, Carl Belanger, owned a grocery store in town, where the two women worked during the summer. QMI Agency was told that Carl was heavily involved in cultural and athletic activities in the community.
Friends and family who spoke with QMI Agency on the weekend said they were devastated after hearing that Audrey and Noemi were found dead.
The women's uncle, Eric Belanger, said the publicity their family has received has not helped them grieve.
"It's not right to have to learn about the death of close ones on the radio," Belanger told QMI Agency on Sunday. "(The media) know things that the family doesn't even know. We're still waiting to hear back from a specialist who was sent to analyze the bodies - and (the media) are already telling us they were poisoned."
It is still unclear how the two women died.
Thai media reported that the sisters were found dead in their hotel room by staff on Friday night, local time. According to various media reports, Thai police said there were no signs of violence or of forced entry in the women's hotel room. Thai police reportedly said that there was vomit in the room, and the women's bodies showed signs of poisoning.
The women were on the last part of a five-week trip to Asia when they were found dead. They were staying at a hotel on Phi Phi Island, a popular tourist destination in the southern part of the country.
Dr. Christiane Laberge told QMI Agency Sunday that the women's neurological systems could have been affected by toxins in their food or in the environment. She said the symptoms likely developed rapidly and the women probably never knew what had poisoned them.
QMI Agency has learned that the women's family was en route to Thailand on Saturday.
Audrey and Noemi were students at Universite Laval, in Quebec City. Audrey was studying cinematography and her sister was in her first year of dentistry school.
Audrey's Quebec City roommate, Allison Pelletier-Fournier, told QMI Agency Saturday that the sisters dreamed of travelling together.
"The last message I received from them said they were headed to Thailand for nine or 10 days and they were excited to show me photos of their trip and everything was going really smoothly," said Pelletier-Fournier.