Funeral today for two New Brunswick brothers killed by African rock python

A memorial sits outside the Reptile Ocean exotic pet store in Campbellton, N.B., on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013. (John LeBlanc/CP)

CAMPBELLTON, N.B. – A funeral service will be held today in Campbellton, N.B., for two young boys who were killed by a python while they slept in an apartment above an exotic pet store, and the Catholic priest says there are no words that can express the pain being felt by the parents.

Four-year-old Noah Barthe and his six-year-old brother Connor were found dead Monday morning after a 45-kilogram African rock python escaped its enclosure in the apartment.

Police say the snake slithered through a ventilation system located above the tank and fell through the ceiling into the living room where the boys slept.

Preliminary results of autopsies show the boys were asphyxiated by the snake.

Rev. Maurice Frenette says the funeral is not the time to point fingers.

“We’re not here today to make any judgment or to try to find an answer to the inquiry, but we are here to take a pause and to be with the family,” he said.

“Today we want to basically be there for them and tell them of all the love we will try to share with them during this time of sorrow.”

Many people in this city of 7,400 paid their respects during a visitation earlier Saturday at a funeral home.

Campbellton deputy mayor Ian Comeau said the boys will be buried together in the same casket.

He said the funeral at St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church will be a celebration of the lives of Noah and Connor.

“It will be a sombre celebration of the life of two young kids,” he said.

Provincial officials say the African rock python was not permitted in the province.

On Friday, 23 reptiles that were banned without a permit in New Brunswick were seized from the store, while four, large American alligators were euthanized.

The apartment and store are owned by Jean-Claude Savoie, a family friend of the boys who took them shopping and to a farm before hosting a sleepover Sunday along with his son.

Savoie has not returned repeated messages for comment.

During a stop in New Brunswick on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences to the family of the boys and said the federal government would review what happened to determine whether it should play a role in the regulation of exotic pet shops.

Comeau said Campbellton and other municipalities should await the outcome of the police investigation and not rush to judgment.

“We don’t want to make any decisions yet,” he said. “I know it is something that will be on the agendas of many, many municipalities … looking at what can be done to prevent such a tragedy.”


Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.