Two boys sleeping in an upstairs Campbellton, New Brunswick, Canada apartment were strangled to death Sunday, August 4, by a 14-foot, 100-pound African rock python that escaped its enclosure, presumably slithered through the ventilation system, and fell on top of Noah Barte, 4, and his brother Connor, 6.
An article in the _New York Daily News_ says the boys were visiting the apartment to have a sleepover with a friend, whose father happened to own an exotic pet store below. However, the snake was being housed in the apartment, not in the pet store as authorities initially thought. At some point in the evening it worked into a duct and eventually fell through a hole in the ceiling above where the boys were sleeping.
Snake expert John Kendrick told CBS News it is possible the python was spooked and simply clung to the boys it landed on. Fortunately, the boy’s friend that was sleeping in another room and not harmed, however, the snake’s owner, Jean-Claude Savoie, is best friends with the deceased boy’s father, and is the one who discovered the grim scene.
“My body is in shock,” he told Canada’s Global News after the authorities were called to his home. “I don’t know what to think. … I feel like they’re my kids.”
A spokesperson for the provincial Natural Resources Department went on record to say the Savoie did not have the proper permit required to even own the snake, which was euthanized. Since Sunday, the Humane Society of the United States has used the tragedy as leverage against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to ban the import or interstate transport of all large constrictor snakes.
Another article on the Global News website says a vigil was held in Campbellton Wednesday night where the boy’s friend, Ethan Levesque, helped honor his friends. People released balloons into the sky and set light candles adrift in the Restigouche River to remember the boys.
“I felt it was time to bring the community together and pay our mutual respects and honour the lives that are not just gone, but that were lived by two beautiful boys,” said Ethan’s mother Cindy Levesque, who organized the event.
While nonvenomous, the African rock python is Africa’s largest snake and kills its prey by constriction. As of late, the species has been causing alarm in the Florida Everglades where the species has been found and is likely growing in numbers alongside another invasive species, the Burmese python.