Hundreds gather to farewell poisoning victim

By James Ihaka, Vaimoana Tapaleao, Nicholas Jones

Sarah Carter's casket is taken from All Saints Church after her funeral service. Photo / NZ Herald
Sarah Carter's casket is taken from All Saints Church after her funeral service. Photo / NZ Herald

Hundreds have gathered at a church in east Auckland today to farewell Sarah Carter, who died of food poisoning in Thailand on Waitangi Day.

Ms Carter's casket was draped with purple flowers and soft music played as the mourners waited for the service to get underway. Ms Carter's family requested that media did not come inside the All Saints Church in Howick.

One of the mourners is Emma Langlands, who survived the poisoning tragedy that killed her friend while they were on their OE with a third friend, Amanda Eliason, in Chiang Mai.

The university friends, all aged 23, suffered food poisoning after eating from a market near their hotel.

Just two days later - on February 5 - Ms Carter was dead.

Ms Langlands, who was the least affected of the group, is now back home in Hamilton.

Her father, Richard Langlands, yesterday told the Herald that his daughter would pay her respects at Ms Carter's funeral.

Ms Eliason, however, will not be able to attend. She is still in Thailand and is not yet well enough to fly.

Yesterday her grandmother, Val Eliason, told the Herald she had spoken on Saturday to her granddaughter who was recovering well.

It was not yet known when Ms Eliason would be allowed to fly back - accompanied by her parents, Peter and Kay Eliason.

None of Ms Eliason's family, who are from South Taranaki and New Plymouth, would be able to be at the funeral but they would be thinking of her family, Mrs Eliason said.

"I felt so much for the Carter family," she said. "We were pretty emotional about that - although we don't know [the family]. But all those girls were such fine girls."

The three women, who travelled to Thailand for a short holiday, were admitted to Chiang Mai Ram Hospital last week.

It was first reported that they had become sick after eating toxic seaweed but their families later said they had ordered curry.

Ms Carter and Ms Eliason required emergency heart procedures but Ms Carter lost her battle.

A memorial service in Wellington - where she studied at Victoria University and where she worked - is to be held on Thursday.

As Ms Carter's family, friends and members of the public farewell her today, investigations are continuing in Thailand.

A spokesman from the Chiang Mai public health office told the Herald that results sent to a laboratory for testing were not expected for another two weeks.

"It was possibly a virus or a bacterial infection," he said. "But there are many variations. We want to make sure that the laboratory supports our ideas."

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