Report: Tourist death in Vietnam not from poison
Cathy Huynh, left, and Kari Bowerman took this photo in Vietnam on July 23, seven days before they were first admitted to the hospital.
September 19th, 2012
09:25 AM ET

Report: Tourist death in Vietnam not from poison

Tourists Karin Bowerman, 27, of Wisconsin, and Cathy Huynh, 26, of Ontario, died mysteriously just days apart this summer in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Since then, family and friends have waited anxiously for the autopsy results.

Speculation on the women’s cause of death ranged from alcohol poisoning to insecticide poisoning. But authorities are now saying there were no traces of toxins in Bowerman’s blood or gastric fluids, according to the Tuoi Tre News, an English-language news site operated by Vietnam’s largest newspaper.

“She died from breathing failures, circulatory collapse due to brain edema,” Lt. Col. Nguyen Hong Ky, deputy head of the Nha Trang police department, told Tuoi Tre News. Brain edema is a buildup of fluid in the brain. The official autopsy report has not been publicly released.

On July 30, Bowerman and Huynh were admitted to Khanh Hoa General Hospital; both were vomiting, had difficulty breathing and showed signs of severe dehydration.

Bowerman died later that night. Huynh was released from the hospital and died two days later. Bowerman’s body underwent an autopsy in Vietnam, according to her family, while Huynh’s body was returned to Canada to be examined in Hamilton, Ontario.

Tuoi Tre News reported earlier that Bowerman’s medical samples had not been sent to Hanoi, Vietnam, for testing as late as two weeks after her death. The director of the local forensic examination center told Tuoi Tre News that the wait period could affect the results, even if the samples were well preserved.

The autopsy results from Huynh are not expected for several weeks.

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Filed under: Health • Travel • Vietnam
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Helena

    Look at the girls photo, closely, the mud, maybe something in the mud got the girls sick, no offense third world medical is well anyway, I would want a cold and be there. My theory should be examined closely, the mud is pratically in the girl's mouth. Where? What and why mud?

    September 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      The mud is from the Nha Trang Hot Springs and mud baths. The mud is sterilized and comes in a packet...been there many times.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bonnie

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_amoebic_meningoencephalitis Perhaps? Did they go swimming or visit a 'spa'?

    The Vietnamese news is reporting two incidents of this within the country; most recently a young boy who passed away. Very similar symptoms.

    http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20120917-rare-brain-inflammation-claims-2nd-life-in-vietnam.aspx

    September 19, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • mre2

      The symptoms of PAM include high fever, headache, photophobia, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting. Additional symptoms include confusion, somnolence, seizures, and coma.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. John

    I've never understood this? Our government declares some country as " Enemy of the Month" and spends billions to try to wipe them off the planet. Then after they've killed thousands of our patriot sons and daughters, we spend more taxpayer money to rebuild them. Who in their right mind would ever want to vacation or visit said country? Do you really believe we are welcome? When nations fight, both countries should have no relations with each other for 100 years! Think about it.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • William

      Dude, it's not the 1970's. Vietnam is a beautiful country to visit; I was there in 2009. We are welcome there, actually, as tourism is Vietnam's #1 industry. Step away from the television and walk out your front door to experience the world for yourself... you might learn something.

      September 20, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Steve

    My sympathy to the families of these beautiful young women. Please be careful when you travel in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Don't take any of the drugs and watch your drink if you are out clubbing. I have lived in Vietnam (former 1st Infantry Vietnam 69-70) for the last 5 years(08-12). Tourist death is a very common occurrence I am sad to say. So many people think that because there is very little law enforcement when tourists are concerned they can do anything. Traffic/transportation accidents are probably the leading cause of death so riding the 3$ a day rental motorbike is not a wise decision unless you are a experienced rider. Vietnam is a wonderful country but like anywhere you must watch your back. If you have a health emergency or accident you are pretty much on your own(except in HCMC or Hanoi). So take care people.

    September 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Linda

    I think it is a Parasite that infects the brain; that could have been picked up from water ways or soil.

    September 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Peggy

    you are all cowards and hate mongers at cnn you need to respect your president black or white, get a job with Romney it would be more approriate then calling yourselves journilist. andy you and the rest are looking so ugly from all your hate

    September 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom

      Who are you whining about? Go find an appropriate article to whine on.

      September 27, 2012 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. anonymous

    How can they be so sure that it was brain edema when they didn't probe her samples for 2 months after her death? Even if it was a brain edema, I hope officials don't write it off as 'case complete' because these girls' families deserve better answers or at least some sort of action so that tourists can become more informed about the status of certain areas within the countries they visit.

    October 1, 2012 at 3:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Farrok

    Sorry I'm worng it a man with mud smeared on his chest..............

    October 2, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Judy

    What is that substance that is on the face of the girl on the right in the picture?

    October 18, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse | Reply
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