real life

Sleepover tragedy: brothers killed by python

Mandy Barthe with sons Connor and Noah

The bond between two brothers is special and unbreakable. Noah and Connor Barthe, aged 4 and 6, were particularly close. Raised by a single mother, they grew up in a tight-knit community in New Brunswick, Canada, and even shared a best friend.

Tragically, they also died together during a sleepover at their best friend's apartment on Sunday night. The brothers were killed by a python while they lay sleeping on a mattress. The snake is believed to have strangled them. A preliminary autopsy shows the boys died of asphyxiation.

Noah and Connor Barthe, brothers killed by a python

Their best friend's dad reportedly loved them like they were his own sons. Their mother was his best friend. But it is being alleged that his actions may have led to their deaths.

Jean-Claude Savoie owns a pet store and mini-zoo called Reptile Ocean pet store. He and his son live in an apartment above the store.

He woke at 6.30am on Monday and, when he first checked on the boys, thought they were still sleeping. It wasn't until he noticed a hole in the ceiling and his 45kg python lying coiled in the corner of the room that he took a closer look and realised the boys were dead.

His son was sleeping in the next room. Mr Savoie captured the reptile, called the police and then called the boy's mother.

His home and business are now crime scenes.

At first he told police the snake was kept downstairs in his pet store, but RMCP Sgt. Alain Tremblay says it appears the snake was actually being kept in the apartment. He told reporters, "The investigator is still looking into whether he had all the rights to keep such (an) animal. There are a lot of things to look at. We're just at the first step of this investigation."

The New Brunswick government said in a statement that Mr Savoie did not have the required permit to house the python and a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Department of Natuaral Resources says he didn't have a permit, nor were they aware the snake was being kept at the apartment.

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A Facebook page for Reptile Ocean offered condolences to the boy’s family before being taken down due to community anger at the boys' deaths.

“We all have a heavy heart today, as anyone would, and attacks on the animal’s owner are unnecessary,” the Facebook page said before it was taken offline.

It was initially thought the snake, which was normally held in a floor-to-ceiling enclosure, somehow managed to escape into the apartment's ventilation system but due to it's weight, the pipe cracked and it fell through the ceiling, landing in the living room where the brothers were sleeping.

"Right now, we're still looking at evidence in the apartment to determine exactly how the snake could get into the ventilation system," Srgt Tremblay said.

The boys' mother, Mandy Trecartin, is now left alone to deal with the loss of her children. It is only thanks to a community fundraiser that she can even afford to bury them.

Criminal charges are being considered against Savoie and locals are calling for the store to be shut down. The snake has been euthanized.

Matt Korhonen, general curator at Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, says the boys had visited an animal farm earlier in the day, which might explain why the snake attacked them. They would have had the scent of other animals on them. This however doesn't explain why it left them alone after killing them.

Korhonen said, “If they were constricted and killed by the snake, they were seen as prey.  The snake wasn’t defending himself. He was trying to eat.”

He said rock pythons don't normally attack and thousands are kept as pets across North America, but he still warns against having them in your home. “Having any animal that’s capable of killing you in your home is probably just not a good idea,” Korhonen said.

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