An escaped python killed two children in their sleep in eastern Canada, police said Monday.
The two young boys, aged five and seven, were sleeping at a friend's apartment late Sunday in the small town of Campbellton when they were surprised by the snake.
It had escaped from a pet store that specialized in exotic animals located on the floor below the apartment.
"The preliminary investigation has led police to believe that a large exotic snake had escaped its enclosure at the store sometime overnight, and got into the ventilation system, then into the upstairs apartment," police said in a statement.
"It's believed the two boys were strangled by the snake."
A New Brunswick police spokesman declined to give further details on the size of the snake or whether signs of strangulation were apparent on the boys.
Authorities late Monday said they were still waiting for the results of the autopsies - to be carried out Tuesday - to determine the cause of death.
But reptile experts expressed skepticism over the incident, saying it would be extremely rare for a constrictor to attack two young boys.
"It's difficult to believe," said David Rogrigue, director of Montreal's Ecomuseum Zoo.
This type of accident would be "an isolated case and very, very extraordinary, and very improbable," he said.
These snakes typically bite to defend themselves and use strangulation solely for their prey.
"Strangling is really linked to the feeding of the animal," he said, explaining the behavior "is stimulated by hunger and by the odor of the prey."
The python had been recaptured and was being held by police, authorities said.
The incident sparked strong reactions in Campbellton, a town of just over 7,000 people on Chaleur Bay in northern New Brunswick.
Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau expressed sorrow over the accident and noted that there had been opposition to the presence of the exotic pet store in the town. He pledged the city ordinance that allowed it would immediately come under review.
Wild West: Gunfight at meeting kills 3
A gunman blasted shots through the wall of a municipal building in a northeastern Pennsylvania town during a meeting on Monday and then barged into the room and continued firing, killing three people, before he was tackled by a local official and shot with his own gun, a witness said.
The shooting rampage, which also wounded some people, happened shortly before 7:30 p.m. during Ross Township's monthly meeting, Monroe County emergency management director Guy Miller said. The gunman, who appeared to be "shooting randomly," was captured and was treated at a hospital, which was placed on lockdown, he said. The shooter later was released into police custody, said the hospital, which was treating two shooting victims.
State police in Lehighton confirmed the gunman had been captured but didn't immediately have details on the arrest.
The Pocono Record said one of its reporters was in the township building and a gunman armed with a pistol with a scope shot through a wall into the meeting, in a rural area of northeastern Pennsylvania about 85 miles (137 kilometres) north of Philadelphia.
The reporter, Chris Reber, told the newspaper that all he saw was holes go through the wall, with smoke and plaster blowing out.
He said he heard automatic gunfire.
"I ran out after the first round of shooting. I dropped to the floor. That's what everyone did. ... Then it stopped and I crawled out the side door," Reber told the newspaper, which posted his account online.
"I was the only person who crawled out. Everyone got behind a table. Some of the supervisors were over on the side throwing up."
Reber said a woman opened a door to the meeting room "and he (the shooter) was standing there. A man pushed her aside and was shot. People were shot inside the room."
The shooter returned to his car and came back inside with another weapon when a local official at the meeting grabbed him, Reber said.
"(West End Open Space Commission executive director) Bernie Kozen was there tending to the man and he (the shooter) didn't see them," Reber said. "Bernie bearhugged him and took him down. He shot (the shooter) with his own gun."
Rep Matt Cartwright, who represents the state's 17th District, said he was "stunned and appalled at the atrocities that claimed the lives of innocent citizens in Ross Township."
He said he had heard about what Kozen did to prevent more bloodshed.
" Kozen is a true hero tonight," Cartwright said in an emailed statement.
Authorities initially said two people had been killed and three had been injured. After the third person died, it was unclear whether that person had previously been classified as one of the injured.
Ross Township has about 5,500 residents. According to its website, the board of supervisors meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of each month.