Autopsies will be performed Tuesday on two young boys who were strangled in their sleep by a python that escaped from a pet store in Canada and slithered through a ventilation system into an upstairs apartment.
The brothers, ages 5 and 7, were visiting the apartment of a friend above Reptile Ocean Inc., an exotic pet store in Campbellton, New Brunswick, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Const. Julie Rogers-Marsh.
The store owner, Jean-Claude Savoie, told the Global News television station that he didn't hear a sound during the incident and discovered the "horrific scene" when he went into his living room, where the two boys had been sleeping, on Monday morning.
Some initial media reports identified the snake as a boa constrictor.
Savoie said he saw the African rock python, pinned it down and put it in a cage.
He said the boys are the children of his best friend and were often at his apartment to visit his son.
Rogers-Marsh said the snake escaped from its enclosure sometime during the night and was believed to have made its way into the apartment through the ventilation system.
"It's believed the two boys were strangled by the snake," she said.
A friend of the boys was sleeping in another room and was unharmed, Rogers-Marsh said.
She said the snake was in the possession of police.
"It's very, very unusual and very tragic and difficult for everyone involved," Rogers-Marsh said.
Savoie said the python, which he has had for at least 10 years, had been kept alone in its enclosure and was not handled by anyone else.
The town's deputy mayor, Ian Comeau, said Reptile Ocean was licensed to operate and "everything was according to our bylaws, to the provincial guidelines."
The deaths of the boys have been "a shock ... it is unbelievable," Comeau said Monday evening. He said he saw alligators, crocodiles and snakes when he toured the shop with the fire department about two years ago.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.