FBI Joins Investigation As More U.S. Tourists Die At Dominican Resorts
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has joined the investigation into the deaths of at least six American tourists vacationing in hotels in the Dominican Republic over the last year.
The problem first came to the attention of U.S. authorities after it was revealed that three Americans had died in a five-day period in May.
On May 25, 41-year-old Miranda Schaup-Werner started feeling poorly and died in her hotel room two hours after she checked into the at Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in San Pedro de Macoris, The Washington Post reported.
Schaup-Werner had a drink from her minibar before she collapsed.
A Maryland couple – 63-year-old Edward Holmes and 49-year-old Cynthia Day – checked into a sister resort, the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana, the same day that Schaup-Werner arrived and died, according to The Washington Post.
Five days later, on May 30, Holmes and Day were found dead in their hotel room at the resort adjacent to the one where Schaup-Werner died.
Autopsy results released by the Dominican government on Thursday showed all three people suffered hemorrhaging, pulmonary edema, and enlarged hearts, The Washington Post reported.
The FBI is giving the local government help in the form of “technical assistance with the toxicology reports,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Once news of the three deaths spread, information about other possible victims starting popping up all over the United States.
A California man in the Dominican Republic for his stepson’s wedding in April collapsed and died after drinking a scotch from his room’s minibar, FOX News reported.
Robert Wallace, 67, was staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana when the incident occurred on April 11.
Wallace was hospitalized on the island and died on April 14, FOX News reported.
His family said the Dominican authorities have not given them an official cause of death, but when news of the deaths of Schaup-Werner, Holmes, and Day broke, the similarities were too much to ignore.
"We have so many questions. We don't want this to happen to anyone else." Wallace’s niece, Chloe Arnold, told FOX News.
But it did happen to someone else at the same resort as Wallace, and now his family is questioning what may have really happened, the New York Post reported.
David Harrison, of Maryland, died of pulmonary edema and respiratory failure at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in July of 2018.
“I no longer feel like my husband died of natural causes,” Dawn McCoy, Harrison’s widow, told the New York Post.
A month before Harrison died, in June of 2018, another Pennsylvania woman at the Bahia Principe in Punta Cana died of what the authorities deemed at the time was a heart attack, WTXF reported.
Her sister Felecia Nieves said that Yvette Monique Sport had just arrived at the Dominican hotel, had a drink from her minibar, and gone to bed. She never woke up.
“She was 51 years of age, relatively healthy, no reason for her to go on vacation and die so suddenly,” Nieves told WTXF. “It makes me question at this point is this cause of death even true.”
A Colorado couple came forward after seeing the reports on the news and revealed they are actually in the process of suing the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana, where Holmes and Day died.
Kaylynn Knull, 29, and her boyfriend, 33-year-old Tom Schwander said they’re still not feeling back to normal after they became critically ill on their first night in the Dominican Republican, according to WUSA.
Knull and Schwander flew home the next morning and sought medical care.
The couple filed a lawsuit against the hotel that alleged they were poisoned by pesticides spread through the air conditioner which left them leaving them with blurred vision, dizziness, and feeling like "a chain saw had run through" their guts, WUSA reported.
But the new information about the deaths at their hotel has the couple questioning what it was that sickened them.
Dominican Republic Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia has insisted the deaths are a coincidence and not the result of foul play, The Washington Post reported.
“Sometimes in life there can be a law of sequences,” Garcia told reporters. “Sometimes, nothing may happen to you in a year. But in another week, three things might happen to you.”
Bahia Principe, a 27-hotel chain, has pushed back against the allegations as the investigation continues, WUSA reported.
It has called the reports of foul play “inaccurate and false information” and threatened lawsuits.
U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Robin Bernstein said that the deaths were extremely rare on an island visited by 2.7 American annually, WUSA reported.
"Unfortunately, sometimes these things happen to people," Bernstein said.
Investigators from the United States are continuing to investigate, but thus far, no direct links have been established between any of the deaths, The Washington Post reported.
The FBI has the authority to investigate suspicious deaths of U.S. citizens outside the country as a result of legislation passed after the Jonestown Massacre, FOX News reported.