Eight tourists have died at the same two resorts in the Dominican Republic, prompting others to cancel plans to visit the Caribbean country.
News of the deaths recently made headlines after relatives and friends of the deceased came forward, driven by concerns there was more to their loved one’s death than officials were letting on.
Striking similarities between seven of the American tourists’ deaths have raised suspicions about the resorts in which they died and the possible cause of death, which was reported as either a heart attack or pulmonary edema for all. The eighth death was not considered suspicious by the deceased’s relatives owing to a pre-existing heart condition.
Of the seven tourists who had been considered healthy prior to their stays, two passed away last year and five this year, with the deaths of Edward Holmes, 63 and his fiancé, Cynthia Day, 49, bringing to light the others.
As reported by Fox News, the couple, from Maryland, checked into the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana on May 25. Five days later, on May 30, they were found dead in their room after they missed their checkout slot.
Just five days prior to the couple’s deaths, Miranda Schaup-Werner, a 41-year-old psychotherapist from Pennsylvania, died suddenly while celebrating her ninth wedding anniversary with husband Dan.
On the evening of her death, Schaup reportedly had an alcoholic beverage from the minibar in her room at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in La Romana – which is adjacent to Holmes and Day’s hotel.
One month earlier, 67-year-old Robert Bell Wallace from California checked into the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana with his wife for his stepson’s wedding.
After drinking Scotch from the minibar in his room, which his family told Fox News came from a dispenser, Wallace became critically ill and died in hospital on the day of the wedding.
That very same hotel was where David Harrison, 45, died the year before in July 2018. Visiting with his wife, Dawn McCoy, and their 12-year-old son, McCoy said her husband started feeling ill after several days of their visit.
Noticing a ‘very potent smell’ coming from her husband, McCoy wanted to call an ambulance but was reportedly told by hotel staff the resort doctor must check over him first. Harrison died while waiting for the doctor to arrive.
The first known person to die in these suspicious circumstances was Yvette Monique Sport, 51, who checked into the Bahia Principe resort in Punta Cana in June 2018.
After having a drink from the minibar in her room, Sport, from Pennsylvania, took a shower and went to bed, her sister Felecia Nieves told local reporters. The next morning, the 51-year-old was found dead in her room.
The most recent tourist death in the Dominican Republic was that of Leyla Cox, from New Brighton, Staten Island, who died on June 10 – just one day after celebrating her 53rd birthday.
The New York Post reports it is currently unclear whether Cox died in one of the hotels where six other US tourists have unexpectedly passed away in the past 12 months.
As per The New York Times, Bahia Principe released a statement last Friday (June 7) saying reports of the deaths had been inaccurate.
The hotel company said they were committed to ‘collaborating completely with the authorities and hope for a prompt resolution of their inquiries and actions’.
Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos said in a statement on Tuesday evening (June 11) it is waiting for official reports about the deaths.
The hotel continued, saying they were:
Deeply saddened by these two unfortunate incidents, and we extend our sincerest sympathy to the families of Mr. Harrison and Mr. Wallace.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 12, 2019
Police are investigating whether the deaths were caused by counterfeit alcohol, the New York Post reports.
Officials reportedly want to find out who supplied the alcoholic beverages the victims drank in the minutes and hours before their deaths, and if the drinks had any dangerous chemicals in them.
The FBI is assisting, with the US State Department saying in a statement:
Dominican authorities have asked for FBI assistance for further toxicology analysis on the recent Bahia Principe, La Romana cases and our FBI colleagues tell us that those results may take up to 30 days.
However, the Dominican government insists the fatalities are isolated incidents, with tourism minister Francisco Javier García saying that although the deaths are ‘regrettable,’ these situations ‘can occur in any country, in any hotel in the world’.
Our thoughts are with those who lost their lives and their families at this difficult time.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).