UPDATED: 8:30 a.m. EDT, June 18 —
More American tourists are dying in the Dominican Republic. A man named Joseph Allen, 55, of Avenel, New Jersey, was found dead in his hotel room at Terra Linda in Sosua in the Dominican Republic on June 13. He is the eight tourist to die in the country since last year but hotels insist there is nothing to fear.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Americas CEO Elie Maalouf told FOX that there is nothing to fear, “We have three hotels in the Dominican Republic. They are operating safely, have had no incidents… While this is an unfortunate set of incidents, travelers can be assured that the hotel industry, travel industry is well regulated [and] safe.”
UPDATED: 3:10 p.m. EDT, June 14 —
At least eight American tourists have died in the Dominican Republic after the death of a woman this week, according to new reports. Leyla Cox was found dead in her resort in Punta Cana on the island nation’s east coast. The 53-year-old New Yorker was among the new names of people who have either died or become violently ill in the popular vacation destination this year, NBC News reported.
Cox’s death came shortly before it was reported that an Ohio man died in a separate Punt Cana resort in January. While it wasn’t immediately clear how Cox died, Jerry Curran’s death was attributed to pulmonary edema, which was the diagnosis of multiple other people who have recently been found dead at their Dominican resorts.
In what appeared to be an unrelated incident, “on Tuesday 40-year-old Surely Miller vanished from a beach in the coastal town of Cabarete in Puerto Plata province,” the New York Daily News reported on Friday. “She was apparently dragged out to sea in a rip tide.”
Prior to the most recent death disclosures, the attention surrounding recent multiple deaths of American tourists in the Dominican Republic was at a fever pitch as survivors of the dead were waiting for toxicology reports to determine how exactly they died. The results could take up to 30 days, according to ABC News.
The developments finally prompted the U.S. ambassador on the island nation to acknowledge what has been happening.
“The safety of U.S. citizens that live in, work in, and visit the Dominican Republic remains our highest priority,” Robin Bernstein, the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, said in a statement. “These incidents are tragic and we offer our deepest condolences to those personally impacted.”
While the embassy asked “everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course,” the families of Edward Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day, a Black couple engaged to be married who were found dead in their hotel room late last month, plan to have their own toxicology tests and autopsies conducted independently of Dominican authorities.
The deadly Dominican episodes coupled with illnesses and other random violence could have some people rethinking their plans to travel to the popular vacation destination. The New York Post reported that nearly 70 tourists in the Dominican Republic said they got violently sick on their trips since March. There were only 10 for all of 2018.
While suspicious deaths are nothing new around the world, it was nearly impossible to ignore the seemingly nonstop news pouring out of the Dominican Republic, and most, if not all of it, has been bad, to put it mildly.
That included the public ambush shooting of Major League Baseball legend David Ortiz, who survived multiple gunshot wounds in the Caribbean country’s capital of Santo Domingo on Sunday. With the shooting, the Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer more popularly known as Big Papi became the latest victim of the island nation’s recent spate of bad news that has disproportionately affected Americans. Ortiz, a Dominican native, became an American citizen in 2008.
While Dominican roads are notorious for its deadly car crashes, something else has been going on there causing the demise of a number of American tourists, most of whom were Black.
Aside from the Ortiz shooting, there have already been at least six deaths reported and at least one reported attempted murder of Americans visiting the Dominican Republic just six months into the year. Three of the deaths happened a resort in La Romana on the country’s southeastern coast. The other three took place in Punta Cana, a resort town located on the country’s east coast that is known for its partying scene popular with Spring Breakers.
The tragic trend has reportedly prompted the FBI to investigate, according to Fox News, which reported that the federal law enforcement agency began its involvement last week.
Since the first recent deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic were reported, several tourists have come out to talk about their own horrifying experiences there, which range from becoming violently ill to being allegedly kidnapped and beaten by a hotel employee.
The U.S. State Department placed a travel advisory on the Dominican Republic in April because of violence. “The wide availability of weapons, the use and trade of illicit drugs, and a weak criminal justice system contribute to the high level of criminality on the broader scale,” the State Department wrote on its website.
While violence in the Dominican Republic was well-documented, perhaps it was the mysterious deaths of three tourists in five days at the same Grand Bahia Principe resort in La Romana this year alone and reported sicknesses from other guests there that seemed most alarming. They all were found dead in their rooms and have been attributed to something other than natural causes.
Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts consequently went on damage control and issued a brief statement denying any culpability and making reference to “false statements” associated with what it called “two unfortunate events.” The statement also threatened legal action, though it was not clear who could be targeted with a lawsuit.
Scroll down to follow our complete timeline of disaster for Americans in the Dominican Republic.
1. June 2018
One year ago this month, a Black woman died in Punta Cana at a Baha Principe resort hotel. Reports say that Yvette Monique Sport, 51, took a drink from a mini bar in the hotel and went to sleep but never woke up. Sport’s family said it has been waiting a year for toxicology reports. The hotel that Sport died in is owned by the same company the owns the hotel where at least three other people would die almost one year later.
2. March 26, 2019
New York couple Orlando Moore, 43, and Portia Ravenelle, 51, were scheduled to catch a flight back to the United States from Sumana, but they never made it to the airport. Their bodies were identified two weeks later. It was determined that the pair died after their car plunged off a cliff as they made their way to the airport. Ravenelle was found unconscious on the side of the road and later died at a local hospital. Moore’s body was found at sea. According to the World Health Organization, the Dominican Republic ranked fifth in road deaths per capita in 2016.
3. May 25, 2019
Miranda Schaup-Werner checked into a Bahia Principe hotel with her husband, the same day as a Black Maryland couple. Reports said that Schaup-Werner had a drink from the mini bar and suddenly became violently ill. She then collapsed on the floor and died in her hotel room. The National Police Investigations Unit concluded she died of a heart attack.
4. May 29, 2019
Tammy Lawrence-Daley posted a disturbing account of her assault allegedly at the hands of an employee at a Punta Cana resort in January. Lawrence-Daley claimed that as he was walking alone to get a snack in the evening, she was kidnapped and beaten for hours. She said that the assailant thought he killed her, but she managed to get away. She was taken to the hospital were she suffered severe injuries like nerve damage and a broken orbital. The Majestic Elegance Resort is now claiming there are inconsistencies in Lawrence-Daley’s story and said she demanded $2.2 million or she was going to go public with her story.
5. May 30, 2019
Maryland couple Cynthia Ann Day, 49, and Nathaniel Edward Holmes, 63, were found dead in their Bahia Principe hotel room the day they were scheduled to catch a flight back to the United States. Day and Holmes had been there five days before they died, and told family and friends that they were having a good time.
An autopsy later revealed that the pair died from respiratory failure and pulmonary edema caused by excess fluid in their lungs. It is still a mystery as to what caused their condition.
6. June 5, 2019
Colorado couple Kaylynn Knull and her Tom Schwander talked to the media about their trip to the Grand Bahia Principe resort last year. Knull claimed their room smelled like someone “dumped paint everywhere,” which she said lead to excessive drooling and watering of their eyes. She said after switching rooms, she became gravely ill experiencing severe cramps that felt like “a chainsaw going through my gut.” A Colorado doctor determined they had been poisoned by organophosphate, which are chemicals found in insecticide. They warned tourists not to stay in that hotel.
7. June 7, 2019
Three more people who stayed at the Bahia Principe hotel revealed that they too fell ill during their stay. Susie Lauterborn, 38, and her husband, Doug Hand, 40, said they quickly became ill during their stay at the hotel in January 2008 experiencing severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, fatigue, chills, and cold sweats. The pair claimed the food “tasted off to the point where I was like, ‘I’m not even going to drink a glass of wine because it just tastes off.’ I can’t even explain — we ate pasta one night, and it was so bad I couldn’t finish it. It tasted acidic, like battery acid.”
Myroslav Sparavalo, a 58-year-old in New York that he was lucky to survive his stay at the now disgraced resort just a month ago. Sparvalo said he began to feel unwell after dinner. He told Buzzfeed that after eating he began to experience a hypertensive crisis, or a severely high increase in blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke.
8. June 7, 2019
Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts released a statement seeming to distance itself from the deaths that have happened on its Dominican property.
“As a result of the misinformation that has been published, which we wholeheartedly disagree
with, Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts has suffered great damage to its image and reputation,” the statement said in part.
9. June 9, 2019
Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz was shot in the back BY a motorcyclist who approached him at a club in Santo Domingo. Reports say the bullet entered his back and exited his stomach. Ortiz was in stable condition after undergoing surgery. He was transported back to Boston Monday evening to continue his recovery.
10. April 14, 2019
“Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California, became ill almost immediately after he had a scotch from the room minibar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana, his niece, Chloe Arnold,” Fox News reported. He died April 14, three days after he and his wife arrived at the Dominican Republic.
11. June 11, 2019
The U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic issues a statement saying it was aware of the recent deaths and sicknesses to American citizens.
“The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo is actively working with the Government of the Dominican Republic and the private sector at the highest levels to ensure that U.S. citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican Republic,” a brief statement said in part.
12. June 13, 2019
After so many sudden deaths of American tourists and the FBI joining the investigation, people on social media begin to wonder if there is serial killer in in the Dominican Republic. Many people vow to not return to the island.
13. June 17, 2019
It goes public that a man named Joseph Allen, 55, of New Jersey, was found dead in his hotel room at Terra Linda in Sosua in the Dominican Republic on June 13. He is the eight tourist to die in the country since last year. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) Americas, which has three hotels in DR, CEO Elie Maalouf told FOX that there is nothing to fear in DR and everything is “well regulated and safe.”