Two young boys have been killed by a python which escaped from its enclosure in a pet shop in Canada and slithered through a ventilation system into the apartment upstairs, police said.
The boys, aged five and seven, were visiting the apartment of a friend above Reptile Ocean, an exotic pet shop in Campbellton, New Brunswick, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Julie Rogers-Marsh.
Police arrived at the apartment at around 6.30am local time on Monday and found the two boys dead. A friend of the youngsters was sleeping in another room and was unharmed, the officer said. She said the owner of the pet shop lived in the apartment.
Pc Rogers-Marsh said the python 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. She could not confirm if the young victims were related. Post-mortem examinations are due to be carried out.
The snake was captured and is in the possession of police, she added.
"It's very, very unusual and very tragic and difficult for everyone involved," she said.
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 boys' deaths were "a shock... it is unbelievable", Mr Comeau said, adding that he saw alligators, crocodiles and snakes when he toured the shop with the fire department about two years ago.