Two sisters who were found dead at a luxury resort on a tropical African island died of excess fluid in their lungs and brains, the Seychelles News Agency is reporting.
The bodies of Robin Korkki, 42, of Chicago, and her sister, Annie Korkki, 37, of Denver, were found in their resort villa last week in the Seychelles, an archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean about 1,000 miles off Africa's east coast.
Their bodies were found Sept. 22 at the Maia Luxury Resort. The news began to spread among friends and family last weekend.
Autopsies performed on the sisters found that Robin Korkki died of "acute pulmonary edema," or excess fluid in the lungs, while Annie Korkki died of "acute pulmonary and cerebral edema," according to the news agency.
A forensic pathologist from a neighboring island performed the autopsies, and specimen samples from both women will be analyzed for toxicology, the agency reported.
Island officials gave no indications about what could have triggered the deaths of the women, described by friends as physically fit and active.
The mystery surrounding the sisters' deaths will last a bit longer, said one noted forensic pathologist who told the Chicago Tribune that the vagueness of the cause of the death will make the toxicology results and the investigation by local police all the more important.
"When we see pulmonary edema, it's a nonspecific finding you see in lots of different things," said Dr. Judy Melinek, an author and former forensic pathologist in San Francisco. "So if you have an elderly person, it could be from heart failure," she explained.
Poisons and drug use could also trigger a pulmonary edema, she said.
Their brother, Chris Korkki, of Lakeville, Minn., said Thursday the family had learned nothing through official channels about the deaths.
Robin Korkki's Facebook page displayed photos of the sisters' trip, including one seaside shot of the bikini-clad women three days before they were discovered.
Korkki had worked as a commodities trader in Chicago since the mid-2000s and lived in the Wicker Park neighborhood. A longtime neighbor said Thursday that she was still too devastated by the news to comment.
A friend, personal trainer James Everhart, said he was heartbroken after hearing of the deaths last weekend while out of town to attend a wedding. "I just broke down right there," he recalled Thursday in an interview with the Tribune.
Everhart said his professional relationship with Robin Korkki at a Lincoln Park gym quickly blossomed into a friendship, which eventually also led to a friendship with Annie. He said the elder sister's face "would light up when she talked about Annie."
The Korkki sisters — part of a large, tightknit Minnesota family — were inseparable, Everhart said, whether they were traveling to exotic locales or just out for a day of shopping.
Robin Korkki, he added, was her happiest when she was traveling the globe.
"She was just so excited about all the trips she would take because she's somebody who just wanted to see the world. That was her thing," Everhart said. "She just really cared about life, itself. She put her life and soul into her work and family … and everything that she did and wanted to do."
Everhart recalled how his friendship with Robin Korkki, which included long phone conversations and at least one trip to a Bulls playoff game, reached a deeper level when his mother became ill and eventually died in 2012.
Korkki, he said, brought the same intensity to her friendship with him that she brought to her workouts, her career and her family, insisting on being by his side and constantly helping.
"She was probably the most loving, caring person that I've ever come across," he said.
Chris Korkki told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his mother and brother have traveled to Seychelles to press officials for answers. He said his mother also has been talking with the U.S. Embassy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Lee writes for the Chicago Tribune.