Two young boys died Monday after they were attacked by a snake that had escaped from an exotic pet store in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, police said.
Police responded to an apartment building in Campbellton shortly after 6:30 a.m. Monday, where they discovered that two boys, 5 and 7, had been strangled by a “large, exotic snake,” said Canadian Royal Mounted Police Constable Julie Rogers-Marsh.
The boys had apparently been sleeping over at a friend’s apartment above Reptile Ocean, Inc., an exotic pet store, when they were suddenly attacked by the snake, according to Rogers-Marsh.
"This is a tragedy," Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “The city is in shock.”
Police believe the snake escaped an enclosure in the store and slinked through the ventilation system before reaching the upstairs apartment, Rogers-Marsh said. It was not immediately clear Monday how the snake initially escaped, she added.
The snake was captured by responders and is now in the possession of police. Rogers-Marsh could not confirm whether the snake was a boa constrictor or a python, as some media outlets initially reported.
An investigation is ongoing, according to a statement released by police Monday afternoon. Autopsies will be performed on the two boys Tuesday, the statement says.
In a statement uploaded to Facebook on Monday afternoon, Reptile Ocean, Inc., said: “Deepest sympathies go out to the family of the children. A terrible accident without a (sic) meaning.”
The statement goes on to address negative comments left by Facebook users.
"This page will be shut down temporarily to avoid any further demeaning comments. You should be ashamed of yourselves. We all have a heavy heart today. As anyone would. And attacks on the animals (sic) owner are unnecessary."
The store’s Facebook page has apparently since been deactivated.
New Brunswick officials in 2009 permitted a wider variety of reptiles to enter the province, according to the CBC. Pet stores were then allowed to sell non-poisonous snakes up to three meters (10 feet) in length.