May 11th, 2009
04:33 PM ET

Deaths at Thai resort trouble family, investigators

Program Note: Tune in for more on the story tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/05/09/seattle.mystery.death/art.jill2.stonge.family.jpg caption="Jill St. Onge died while vacationing with her fiance at a Thailand resort. "]

Patrick Oppmann

What started as a romantic Southeast Asia vacation for a Seattle couple ended with Ryan Kells preparing Friday to return from Bangkok carrying the ashes of his fiancee to give to her family in California.

"It's such a shock," Robert St. Onge told CNN about the death of his sister, Jill, who had been traveling with the man she planned to marry. "There was no way to hear last words or even see her because she has already been cremated."

The couple had been visiting Thailand at the end of a three-month journey during which the two had become engaged.

On April 26 in her online journal, the 27-year-old woman described the surroundings near where the Leonardo Dicaprio movie, "The Beach," was filmed.

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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Terri from Atlanta

    I think it's strange that the body was cremated so "it could get
    to the US faster". I think a top priority should be to get a full autopsy
    done – just saving tissue samples may not be enough.

    Just look at the Kathleen Savio case. Drew Peterson is charged
    with murder all because a second autopsy showed homicide.
    If the body is cremated, a second autopsy done in the US would
    not be possible.

    Please, 360 team, keep us updated on this story.

    May 12, 2009 at 12:53 am |
  2. Christina

    I think the cyanide theory may become more of a situation . This is a bit fishy and I agree with what Teri Ann had to say.

    May 12, 2009 at 12:08 am |
  3. Zach Van Dradne


    It's always painful to lose someone, a loved one, a family member, someone you love, and my heart goes out to the family of this young person.

    It is awful that this happened, and I wonder who provided this young couple with information that Thailand would be a nice place, a safe place to travel, Thailand has been in upheaval now for years violence breaks-out constantly, their is a low-grade civil war going now for 4 to 5 years... This very troubling that a close friend, a work partner, a travel agent, or maybe they would've checked for a State Department warning had they known. . .

    There is NO excuse for this young woman to have lost her life this was a complete failure of her support structure, just tragic! Again, my care goes to the parents & siblings of Jill.

    May 12, 2009 at 12:04 am |
  4. Marlene

    I note that the journalist mentioned that the medical experts says that it quite unlikely that casava could be the cause of these two ladies death. I beg to defer. Do they even know what is casava. If not prepared properly, you can get very sick and even die from eating casava. These so called 'medical experts' should really check their facts before commenting.

    May 11, 2009 at 11:45 pm |
  5. Kristina

    Our govenment should get more invloved. I am a high school friend of Jill's, from my understanding Thailand would not let her family bring her body back to the U.S As. The U.S. also said they did not want to leave a foot print in Thailand. I hardley believe that her loved one would of posioned her. Not to mention the fact that he became will as well. He did everything he could to save her by getting her to the hospital as fast as possible. It would have been ignorant for him to search for a hotel official at that time.
    The U.S govenment and Thailand government appear to be coving something up......something needs to be done about it.
    Jill will be deeply missed. This story of her dealth has consumed my thoughts. I hope her friends and family get the answers they/we deserve.

    May 11, 2009 at 11:05 pm |
  6. Randy Gaudet

    I saw something similar at a guest house in Chiang Mai Thailand several years ago in 1992. A fellow I met who was a writer traveling around Asia and I were talking in the guest house day room. Another western traveler came in and offered us yoghert in a sealed cup. I said "no thanks" because I was going to bed for the evening. The next morning I was to meet my friend for breakfast but he didn't show up so I went to his room and knocked on his door, no answer. I told the guest house manager that I know he is in there so we opened the door. He was lying on the bed but we couldn't wake him. We carried him to the truck and rushed him to the hospital and called the police. I went back to the guest house with the police and we looked through his room. His laptop and passport were missing along with other valuables. The police checked his trash can and found the empty yoghert container. The man who offered us the yoghert left the guest house sometime in the middle of the night and no one saw him leave. The guest house did not keep his passport or even check his ID (which is now a law in Thailand ). Investigation showed my friend was poisoned with a sunstance (what type I do not know) that was injected into the yoghert with a syringe. My friend was fine and released a week later from the hospital. I was told if I hadn't of found him he would of died for sure.

    If anyone is offered any food or drink and you did not see them purchase it don't take it no matter where you are traveling.

    May 11, 2009 at 11:04 pm |
  7. brian o'connell

    I am a registered nurse traveling in phillipines.please see article in discovery magazine april 09 ,I just read about tetratoxins from fish and seafood in that part of the world.The symptoms and progression fit.

    May 11, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  8. JP

    The previously commenter should have stopped for a second before posting her "what I would have wanted my fiance to do" post and actually thought about it the practical circumstances of this tragedy. This wasn't a "resort" as in the Four Seasons...this was a house-like structure on an island where motorized vehicles are not generally allowed and where the closest doctor/medical care was over a mile away from where Jill fell ill. There was no 911 for Ryan to call. There were no fanstasy "resort authorities" as you would imagine them, with clean white uniforms and dapper medical bags who could have appeared when beckoned, like room service.

    For God's sake, have some empathy. Why did he put her in a cart and run over a mile while vomiting with illness himself, running towards medical care? To try to save her life. And, because he didn't have any other options.

    Think before you type, for crying out loud. Ryan and Jill, and their families, deserve our respect and condolences, not a flippant "what I would have done if that were me" haughty reimagining and questioning of what Ryan tried to do to save Jill's life.

    May 11, 2009 at 10:52 pm |
  9. Jamie

    This is very strange, I've been to this island before the tsunami, but still, it's a small island and everyone there speaks english. I don't understand why he couldn't find a clinic or transfer her to the mainland to a hospital. This is very sad no matter what, and I hope that they figure out what happened to her despite the cremation. I love to travel to Thailand and have always felt very safe so I hope we get answers soon.

    May 11, 2009 at 10:30 pm |
  10. Alison

    Mark my words...she has been murdered by her fiancee. How would cyanide randomly be found in food? The reason there were two deaths was because it would be too obvious that she was poisoned by her fiancee if she had been the only person to die. I guarantee this will come out in a month or two that he is suspected of murder....it seems so obvious to me!!!!!!

    May 11, 2009 at 10:29 pm |
  11. Jim M

    Places like Phi Phi Island often have little in the way of medical facilities. This island is known for its primative nature and roads are truly non existant. Island transportation is by bicycle, push cart (not shopping cart) and by foot.

    This incident might be a good point for Dr. Gupta to note for all "remote" vacationeers. We are well aware of the recent Canadian ski resort problem and the remoteness of medical facilities.

    The nearest well-equipped hospital was in Phu Ket and they have helicopters available for just this kind of event.

    Be Prepared! Travel with expert rour books that have info on hospital and dental facilities. Best bet, check in advance for adequate foreigh medical insurance. Be it swine flue, appendicits, an infection or broken bone – be medically aware when you travel.

    May 11, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  12. Teresa, OH

    @Teri: I agree with most of what you said. On the cremation, I wondered if it was cheaper to take ashes back home than to accommodate a coffin and body? ( i dont mean to be disrespectful)
    And they did save TISSUE samples– of which I would make sure I did a DNA on to see if it were really my sisters.

    Odd that the two FEMALES died.... Had they talked to each other? shared drinks? dinner?

    I too am leary of the shopping cart transportation and not going to someone at the resort for help... perhaps it was a language problem? But even a resort worker could have called the police.

    " they seemed like such a happy couple".... hmmmmm

    May 11, 2009 at 9:17 pm |
  13. Annie Kate

    Hopefully Ryan can shed more light on what happened to her – maybe she did drink too much; or ate some spoiled food, etc. With the tissues samples and questioning Ryan hopefully medical science can say what probably happened. Its a shame she was cremated before coming back to this country because that really limits what investigators can do to determine what went so very wrong.

    May 11, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  14. Teri Ann LaBuwi

    There is a serious lack of information here! I think with more investigation foul play will be discovered. With food poisoning and/or poison from the nearby plant, why haven't more people in the resort town been affected? Are others turning up at clinics with similar symptoms? Why was the body cremated so quickly? What is the explanation for "cyanide traces" in the stomach of victim #2? On first read of your article, I'm jumping to the immediate assumption that cyanide meant for one victim was perhaps ingested by both. And wait - the boyfriend pushed his sick fiance around in a shopping cart looking for medical care? What about notifying the resort authorities, or calling for aid? Hmm, if I was sick, that's what I would want my fiance to do. I'd like to see the media and law enforcement take a closer look at the companions and/or significant others of both victims. I await details!~

    May 11, 2009 at 5:49 pm |