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. Sinfully Yours

    This is why you never drink tap water while in foreign countries people.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • rafael

      Not sure why they didn't just ask you for the cause first.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Shuffler

      You don't drink water in foreign countries.... not because it is dirty or nasty... mostly because the water quality is so different in many countries. The folks that were raised drinking that water have grown immune to any minute contaminants. Your system, not being accustomed to such, would react unfavorably.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. Larry

    Having spent 26 months there, I wouldn't believe a word out of NVA mouths.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • mike b


      September 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • OnE

      ...Gulf of Tonkin incident was fabricated by the US...

      September 19, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sally

    So it wasn't a poisoning but was brain edema? How do we now explain what caused both girls to get brain edema and die within days of each other?

    September 19, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  4. MS

    Sounds like meningitis to me.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Judy

      Yes, meningitis or encephalitis perhaps.

      September 19, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Judy

    Brain edema is not build up of fluid around the brain – it's brain swelling. It can be caused by infection, high atlitude, strokes, tumors among other things. So what the NVA is saying is that they both died of edema and have no idea why, and their lab samples haven't been tested. Yet they know for certain they weren't poisoned. Really.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • rafael

      Not clear what you are doubting. They found no poison. Really.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • OnE

      The fact that you still use NVA to refer to Vietnam and its government shows how much you know.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Papa Lazarou

    It is irresponsible to speculate on the cause of these girls' deaths that may well have been due to natural causes.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • regor60

      Read a little more carefully and you'll see why that is very unlikely

      September 19, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Stephen Andrews


      September 19, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. mre2

    There's no mention f any fever in either, just that both were vomiting, had difficulty breathing and showed signs of severe dehydration. Absent fever, it sure sounds like a toxic reaction to something very potent and not included in the typical toxicity screen, something like ricin.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I agree totally.
      That was my first thought.
      They will have to check into the women's itinerary extensively to see where they could have ingested such a toxin.

      September 19, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Sinfully Yours

      Mmmm... I like ricin.
      I prefer to eat my ricin a bowl, preferably warm with a little butter and soy sauce.

      September 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • soulcatcher

      ricin or similar agent sounds plausible. There would be signs of a bite if it was spider/scorpion snake. Infectious disease maybe?

      September 19, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Philip

    Obviously, both of their deaths were caused by the same thing. Both developed the same exact reactions to whatever. That one autopsy is done in Viet Nam and the other in Canada raises eyebrows. And any time we have to wait for autopsy results, something's up.
    Example: The day after Dr. Jonathan Drummond-Webb died, his death was officially reported to be caused by suicide, though it would be days later before his autopsy results were published. This raised eyebrows.
    Come to find out, Dr. Webb had just reprted the US gov taking credit with the World Bank for donating AIDS meds to Africa that were all placebo. This raised even more eyebrows that are still uo there.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. Larry

    Buckshot, know what you are saying. Been there, seen that.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. Philip

    The day after Dr. Jonathan Drummond-Webb reported US officials supplying placebo (fake) AIDS meds to African countries in exchange for taking credit with the World Bank, his dead body was found at home laying next to an empty whiskey bottle and a shotgun. Cause of death was reported as suicide. Dr. Webb didn't dink booze and never owned a gun.
    In terms of childrens lives saved on the operating table, Dr. Webb was the world's most successful pediatric surgeon. He had congressmen who were friends, and it was to two congressmen that he reported the fake AIDS drugs to.
    No mention of these details were included in news reports about his death. His death was labled suicide, the bleeding hearts spouted their usual "RIP's", AND THAT WAS THE END OF THAT.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. V.G.

    I think I would rely on a official report from their own country.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. Slappy

    Dr Phil could solve this.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cody (D.C.)

    So, what is on her face?

    September 19, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I know, right?
      What IS that?

      September 19, 2012 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Jenny

      It is mud...Kari and Cathy attended The Mud Festival in Korea the week before.

      September 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      The mud on her face is from the Nha Trang Hot Springs Mud Baths, a popular tourist destination. I lived in Nha Trang for 7 months, the place is run by the Viet Mafia. There is a lot of fake Ecstasy and other dangerous drugs. The Nha Trang Beach Club is notorious for young women being dosed, my wife was dosed with the drug commonly know as roofies. 15 miutes after she finished her drink we had to carry her out of the place. Tourist die in Vietnam all the time from moto accidents to food poisoning. Nobody drinks the tap water, even the locals. None of this is publicized as it would hurt the tourist trade and the state run press is directed not to.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lobelia

    Well, that clears that up! SEE, it wasn't poisoning after all. Simple "brain edema," following systems of vomiting, difficulty breathing, and severe dehydration. All perfectly natural. We can move on now.

    September 19, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. lem

    Those pesticide "poisons" have a half-life of just a few days, so obviously they wont find it or any metabolites of any significant amount months after the deaths.

    September 19, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
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