08/07/2013 07:02 EDT | Updated 10/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Boys killed by python to be mourned at vigil

A vigil will be held tonight to honour the two boys who were found dead after a large snake escaped from its enclosure above an exotic pet store in Campbellton, N.B.

Police say the large African rock python killed Noah Barthe, 4, and Connor Barthe, 6, and have launched a criminal investigation into their deaths.

Autopsies were performed on Tuesday to determine the exact cause of the two boys' deaths. RCMP Sgt. Alain Tremblay said Tuesday that it wasn't clear when results would be available, but he expected they would shed some light on what happened to the boys.

The snake has also been put down and sent to Fredericton for a necropsy.

The African rock python was found near the boys in the living room of an apartment above the reptile store on Monday morning by owner Jean-Claude Savoie. Noah and Connor were staying there for a sleepover.

Police said Tuesday that contrary to previous reports the snake was not kept in the store but was contained upstairs.

It's believed the animal escaped through the top of a glass enclosure and into a ventilation system. The python, which was 4.3 metres long and weighed about 45 kilograms, fell through the ceiling and into the room where the two boys were sleeping.

A great uncle of the two boys, Dave Rose, said that they and their mother were friends with Savoie, and had spent the day together on Sunday. They spent part of their time at Savoie's family farm.

"There they played with llamas and goats and horses," Rose said Tuesday. "They went for a ride on the farm tractor with Jean-Claude, and he even let them steer the tractor, so it was a super day."

The two families returned to Savoie's apartment for the sleepover, and they separated around midnight.

Rose also thanked the public for their support and asked for privacy.

The vigil for the two boys is expected to start at 8 p.m. AT. in Campbellton.

Previous complaints will be probed

Earlier Tuesday, a New Brunswick government official said African rock pythons are not permitted under the province's exotic wildlife regulations.

Ian Comeau, Campbellton's deputy mayor and chair of the city's public protective services, said Tuesday previous complaints against the exotic pet store, Reptile Ocean, will be examined.

Many in the community of 7,500 said they are shocked by what happened, some adding that they had visited the store.

Betty Tremblay said she couldn't understand why someone would keep an African rock python.

"I thought it was horrible; you can't keep animals like that in a house, shocking," she said. "I can't imagine what these people are going through."

A small memorial to the victims has been set up outside Reptile Ocean, including several teddy bears and candles.

The local pharmacy, Jean Coutu, has set up a donation bin to help raise money for the boys' funerals.