WHO investigates Thailand death hotel
Monday 9 May 2011 5:29 p.m.
By Amanda Gillies
The World Health Organisation is now investigating whether a Wellington woman died from a chemical used to kill bed bugs in a Thailand hotel.
Sarah Carter died in hospital in February after falling ill. TV3's 60 Minutes uncovered evidence of chlorpyrifos in her hotel room at the Downtown Inn.
"It's a very bad location, bad luck for that hotel," says Pannada Disakul, Chiang Mai governor.
Four tourists, including Ms Carter, died at the northern Thailand hotel just weeks apart, and the official verdict from Thai authorities is bad luck.
"Their short term defence is to bury all these incidences," says her father, Richard Carter, "so the rest of the world doesn't hear about them. It's to ensure their tourist numbers don't drop off."
It was initially thought Ms Carter had died from food poisoning. Now A 60 Minutes investigation has revealed new evidence and introduced a new theory.
"I think she was killed by an overzealous sprayer who's been acting on the instruction of the hotel owner to deal with the bed bugs," says Dr Ron McDowall.
60 Minutes snuck samples from the hotel room where Ms Carter died. The results found traces of a chemical used to kill bed bugs, but potentially lethal to humans. The chemical is banned in many countries.
"The fact they have cleaned the room yet we still found significant levels of pirovox is a huge concern," says Dr McDowall.
Following the 60 Minutes story, the World Health Organistion is now carrying out its own investigation. And, for the first time, the Carter family has a firm theory as to what caused their daughter's death.
"It's good to get an answer but still pretty horrific that they have such low standards that that could happen," says Mr Carter.
Aucklander Michael Bain isn't taking any chances. A local aid agency booked him to stay in the same hotel in a fortnight but he has now changed his plans.
"Two of us have young families, wives we are leaving with young kids. We didn't want to cause unnecessary risk just because of where we are staying," he says.
3 News rang several travel agents, but all said they weren't contracted to the Downtown Inn and don't recommend people stay there. One spokeswoman went on to say their Asian contact has never wanted to affiliate with the hotel.