The Korea Herald


2 English teachers die on vacation in Vietnam

By Korea Herald

Published : Aug. 7, 2012 - 20:15

    • Link copied

Cathy Huynh Cathy Huynh

Two Korea-based English teachers died while backpacking in Vietnam last week, according to Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre News.

Cathy Huynh, 26, of Ontario, Canada, and Karin Bowerman, 27, of Illinois, U.S., were visiting the coastal city of Nha Trang during their week-long vacation from teaching in Korea when the two suddenly became ill on July 30, vomiting several times. They went via taxi from their hotel to a nearby military hospital.

Dr. Ngo Thi Thanh Tam, vice head of Khanh Hoa Military Hospital’s emergency service and intensive care unit, said Bowerman was writhing upon being admitted at 7:30 p.m. As Bowerman’s condition worsened, she was quickly transferred to Khanh Hoa Province General Hospital. The American died at 10:40 p.m. following acute respiratory failure. Huynh was treated at the military hospital and discharged the same evening.

Two days later, Huynh took herself to the hospital after she “complained of tiredness,” the hotel owner told Tuoi Tre. She suffered serious respiratory failure and blood pressure loss and her body went into shock. She died early the next morning, on Aug. 2, according to Tuoi Tre.

Friends of Huynh are seeking donations to help her mother bring her daughter’s body home to Canada.

A forensic investigator suggested that alcohol over-consumption may have been involved in the cause of deaths. But Dr. Mai Dinh Trung, former head of the Khanh Hoa Province General Hospital’s emergency service and intensive care unit, rejected the suggestion, saying the two died under abnormal circumstances, Tuoi Tre reported. Unconfirmed claims have arisen that the two may have died from poisoning.

An autopsy was completed on Bowerman, but the hospital has yet to release the results. A doctor at the Forensic Examination Center in Khanh Hoa told Tuoi Tre that the results are expected to be sent to Hanoi for analysis, which could take two weeks.

Bowerman and Huynh had both taught at public elementary schools in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province.

Bowerman’s family want to have her corpse cremated in Ho Chi Minh City and the ashes delivered to her hometown in Illinois, according to Tuoi Tre News.

Huynh’s mother, Huynh Thi Huong, arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on August 4 to arrange for bringing her daughter’s body back to Canada. Huong refused to consent to an autopsy as the two travelers had apparently died from the same cause and one autopsy was already performed, Tuoi Tre said.

“I’m deeply saddened and mournful,” Huong told Tuoi Tre News. “We would like to bring her body to Canada for funeral because all my family members in Canada want to see her for the last time.”

Huong denied the suspicion that her daughter may have died from drinking too much wine, saying that Huynh never drank heavily at home or during vacations.

“I’m really angry at the irresponsibility of the hospital staff. She died because she did not receive proper medical care despite the fact that she had been admitted to the hospital 12 hours before her death,” Huong said.

Justin Gallant, a high-school friend of Huynh, has set up fund-raising website “Bring Cathy Huynh home” with a goal of $40,000 to help with transport and funeral expenses. Created on Aug. 2, the site raised about $16,000.00 from over 300 donors as of Tuesday morning.

“Cathy became a close friend with my son Casey in Korea and brought their group of friends so much fun and laughter,” donor Kim Cooper wrote on the site. “She will be sorely missed by them.”

Diana Cao, a close friend of Huyhn’s in Korea, says the local expat community has been highly supportive in her time of loss.

“I am overwhelmed by how much love and support people have shown me. A lot of fellow English teachers knew that Cathy was my best friend so they have been sending their condolences through emails and text messages,” she told the Korea Herald via email. “I‘ve been told by so many fellow English teachers that they are here if I need them.”

“All I can say is that (the) expat community has lost two great people. Two people who have been taken too soon,” Cao added. “Cathy was a free-spirited, strong, compassionate, well rounded person. She was very open-minded, caring, loved traveling and loved her time in Korea. As soon as I heard the news, I felt my heart sink. I couldn’t believe that someone who was so full of life was robbed of a life.

“Cathy will never know how many lives she’s touched.”

For inquiries, email For information on making donations, visit

By Elaine Ramirez and news reports