10th American Dies In Dominican Republic Amid Trip Cancellations

Topline: The tenth American tourist has died in the Dominican Republic in the past year, with eight of those deaths occurring since April, deepening a mystery about what’s really going on, as Dominican officials continue to insist the island is safe.

  • Some analysts without firsthand access to medical reports or autopsies believe some of the deaths were potentially caused by pesticides or other exposure to poisonous chemicals, according to the New York Times. Other deaths could be attributed to cardiovascular issues, but no conclusions have been reached.
  • According to multiple news reports, some of the victims had an alcoholic drink from their hotel minibars immediately before their deaths. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana announced Friday it is removing liquor dispensers from their minibars and hiring a U.S. healthcare company to ensure their onsite clinics meet “all international and U.S. standards,” according to the New York Post.
  • John Corcoran, brother of real estate mogul and Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran, also died in the Dominican Republic in April. Barbara Corcoran said John Corcoran died of natural causes, according to the BBC.
  • The FBI is said to be assisting with toxicology reports for some of the deceased, and the U.S. embassy for the Dominican Republic said in a June 11 statement, “Those results may take up to 30 days. We ask everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course.”
  • Other violent and suspicious incidents, like a woman horribly beaten in January while on her hotel’s property, and two large groups of travelers falling ill after swimming in hotel pools or eating in hotel restaurants, are worryingly unexplained.

Key background: Multiple autopsies from previous victims showed similarities in their causes of death, with the bodies exhibiting enlarged hearts, fluid in their lungs and internal bleeding. At least three of the victims reportedly had a drink from their hotel room minibars before being found dead, and two of the three were guests at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana. The New York Post reported last week that some Dominican hotel room minibars are equipped with liquor on tap, and that local authorities were investigating whether or not those minibar liquor taps were counterfeited or somehow contaminated.

Critical fact: The American Society for Travel Advisors reported 60% of its membership canceled Dominican Republic trips last week, while separate analysis of flight booking data showed a 45% increase in flight cancellations in the first half of June 2019 compared to the same two weeks in June 2018. For would-be travellers, the Dominican Republic is rated a two out of four by the U.S. State Department, which advised in an April 15 update: “Exercise increased caution due to crime. Violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide, and sexual assault is a concern throughout the Dominican Republic.” The State Department has provided public condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, but has declined to comment on any ongoing investigations. A Florida man who visited in May, only to fall suddenly and severely ill, says, “Don’t go. Just don’t go.”

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