- Boys were sleeping over at an apartment above the Reptile Ocean pet store in Campbellton in New Brunswick, Canada
- Serpent escaped its cage and slithered up to the apartment through the air ducts
- Punched a hole in the ceiling and dropped onto boys who were sleeping
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police have seized the snake and are investigating
Two small brothers, age 5 and 7, have been tragically strangled to death in their sleep in Canada, by a massive 16-foot python that escaped from a pet store below the apartment where the children were staying the night.
The first pictures have emerged of little Connor and Noah Barth, who were sleeping soundly when the 100-pound African Rock Python fell from the ceiling and attacked them.
The boys were spending the night with Jean-Claude Savoie, who lives above the Reptile Ocean pet store that he owns in the tiny New Brunswick city of Campbellton. Reptile Ocean is home to a veritable menagerie of exotic animals, including crocodiles, tarantulas, tortoises and at numerous snakes.
Mr Savoie described to Global News how he walked into the living room and found the two boys dead about 6.30am on Monday. He found the snake coiled in a hole nearby.
He said the creeping serpent slithered upstairs into his apartment through the ventilation ducts and creeped into the ceiling.
It then fell through the ceiling and dropped onto the small boys from above. Mr Savoie said he believes the snake coiled around both children and crushed them as they slept together on the floor.
The National Post reports that the snake was a 14 to 16-foot African rock python that even its owner said was ‘vicious’ and was rarely handled.
Tim Thomas, a former Reptile Ocean employee, told the newspaper that when he learned of the tragedy, he immediately called Mr Savoie’s best friend, Mandy Trecartin, who told him it was her boys who were killed.
Neighbor Diane Fournier confirmed to MailOnline that it was Connor and Noah who had been killed.
She described how she often saw the brothers happily playing together outside. They were fascinated by animals, she said, and often came over to pet her dog.
‘The kids were always playing and laughing. They were really full of joy and lots of energy,’ she said.
Facebook photos show both of the boys handling a small corn snake – called Mr Slithers – owned by their mother.
Ms Fournier told MailIOnline that Mr Savoie operated Reptile Ocean as both a pet shop and as a zoo.
He kept numerous snakes and lizards and small crocodiles to sell, but he hosted tour groups.
‘He always had kids going in there to visit like school kids and groups,’ she said.
Ms Fournier said she she herself has touched the snake that is believed to have killed the boys. He often showed it off and kept it in a locked cage, she said.
The boys are brothers, the children of Mr Savoie’s best friend. He said they often sleep over at his apartment.
‘I thought they were sleeping until I (saw) the hole in the ceiling. I turned the lights on and I (saw) this horrific scene,’ he said.
‘(The snake) went through a ventilation system. I don’t understand how it did it. It went through the ceiling… and the snake fell through the living room from the ceiling,’ he said.
The snake is not usually handled by anyone in the store and Mr Savoie said he does not know how it escaped its cage in the pet shop.
He said he has owned the giant snake for more than a decade.
‘My body is in shock. I don’t know what to think,’ he told Global News.
The horrifying deaths of the two children shocked residents of the small city of 7,400 in northern New Brunswick.
‘It’s very nerve-wracking. If one got out, how many else got out,’ Ms Fournier said.
Police said an autopsy Tuesday will confirm the exact cause of death, though officials believe the boys were crushed to death by the snake.
Mr Savoie said he captured the snake and turned it over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are examining the creature.
An RCMP spokeswoman said the major crimes unit is investigating the case and will determine whether any criminal charges should be filed against the owner.