- At least 13 US tourists have died while staying at all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic since June 2018, a State Department official confirmed to CNN.
- Several other US tourists have alleged they were poisoned at a Dominican Republic resort, and one woman alleged she was brutally attacked at a Punta Cana resort in January. Police are still investigating.
- In a non-suspicious incident, Portia Ravenelle and Orlando Moore, of New York, died in a car crash in March while driving to the airport.
- Here’s a closer look at each of the deaths and other cases of tourists getting sick or assaulted in the Dominican Republic in the past year.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
At least 13 Americans have died in the Dominican Republic under suspicious circumstances since June 2018 – and several other tourists claim they were poisoned or attacked in the country.
The State Department has confirmed the deaths of several US tourists who have died while staying at all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic since June 2018. Most of them died from heart attacks, pulmonary edemas, or other apparent natural causes.
Three tourists all died of respiratory failure while staying at Bahia Principe hotel at the Playa Nueva Romana resort in La Romana, about 50 miles west of Punta Cana, in May. Another woman died at a hotel in the same resort chain last June, her family told NBC 10, and several other tourists have said they were poisoned by drinks at the same resort chain.
At the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana, two men died in separate incidents in April 2019 and June 2018. There are now reports of US tourist deaths at other Dominican Republic resorts, as well.
Additionally, a Delaware woman alleged she was brutally attacked at another Dominican Republic hotel. Police said they are investigating her claims, though have said there are inconsistencies in the case.
The country is a popular vacation destination, with over 6 million tourists visiting the white sand beaches, tropical rainforests, and all-inclusive resorts every year.
In 2018, 13 Americans died in the Dominican Republic. Four of the deaths were the results of drownings, four were auto accidents, two were homicides, one was suicide, and one was an undisclosed accident, the US State Department reported.
The US State Department told INSIDER that it doesn’t publish data regarding natural deaths abroad, but said there has not been “an uptick in the number of US citizen deaths reported” in the Dominican Republic compared to previous years.
All of this year’s incidents appear to be unrelated. And while tourism is crucial to the region, the recent deaths have raised concerns among visitors.
Here’s a closer look at each of the deaths and other cases of tourists getting sick or assaulted in the Dominican Republic in the past year.
Tracy Jerome Jester Jr., of Forsyth, Georgia, reportedly died from respiratory issues
Tracy Jerome Jester Jr., of Forsyth, Georgia, died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic with his sister on March 17. His family just started speaking to the press about his death in July.
Jester’s mother, Melody Moore, told ABC News that this cause of death was listed as “respiratory illness.”
It is unclear where the 31-year-old was staying on the island when he died, but Moore said her son had been out sightseeing on the day before his death.
Moore told WSB-TV that she spoke with him the night before and Jester had made a remark about drinking soda that didn’t taste right.
The next morning, Moore says she got a call from her daughter who said Jester “just dropped to his knees and started throwing up blood.”
Jester’s sister said her brother had lupus, but it’s unclear whether the autoimmune disease played a role in his death.
A US State Department spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that a US citizen died in March.
Khalid Adkins, 46, of Denver, Colorado, died after being deemed too ill to fly home.
A State Department spokesperson confirmed to CBS News that a US citizen died in the Dominican Republic on June 25.
Strick said Adkins attempted to fly back to the United States over the weekend, but was dripping with sweat when he boarded the plane, and he vomited in the plane’s bathroom. He was forced to disembark.
“They transferred him to Santo Domingo and [said] that his breathing is really bad and that his kidneys were failing,” she told FOX Denver.
His daughter Mia Adkins, wrote on her Facebook page that she had been in the Dominican Republic with her father, and the day after she left, he “got super sick.”
Relatives told the New York Daily News that they’re still waiting on a cause of death.
His family has launched a GoFundMe to pay for the costs of bringing his body back to the United States.
Joseph Allen, 55, was found dead in his hotel room near Puerto Plata in June.
Joseph Allen, a 55-year-old from New Jersey, was found dead on June 13 in his room at the Terra Linda Resort in Sosua, on the north side of the island, about 15 miles east of Puerto Plata.
Allen’s family said he was celebrating a friend’s birthday in the Dominican Republic when he died, according to NBC News.
His brother, Jason Allen, said Joseph had complained to friends about the heat and went to lie down in his room before his death.
“The maid opens the door, screams, slams the door. My brother is on the floor dead, between his room and the bathroom,” Jason Allen told NBC New York.
Jason Allen said he wants his brother’s death investigated.
“I’d rather not guess because you will drive yourself crazy with that, but I do think something is off and I think it needs to be investigated no matter how much money or how much time it is,” he said.
Joseph Allen leaves behind his 23-year-old son.
Terrence Richmond, 56, collapsed and fell during a hike near Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. His mother was told he died of a heart attack.
Terrence Richmond, 56, collapsed, fell, and died during a hike near Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, on August 29, 2018,CBS Baltimore reported. The Bronx teacher was on vacation when he died, though it’s unclear where he was staying.
His mother, Annette Wedington, said she was told her son died of a heart attack, but she believes there was a struggle before his death.
“He was beaten because his knuckles were bruised all up,” Wedington, from Baltimore, Maryland, said. “He had a fractured skull and he had a bruise on his back like he had been kicked.”
She said that while officials told her Richmond died of a heart attack, an autopsy she obtained from the Dominican Republic’s National Institute of Forensic Sciences (INACIF) showed he had fluid in his lungs and a cracked skull.
INSIDER has contacted the Dominican Republic’s Attorney General’s Office for comment.
Leyla Cox, 53, died at a resort in Punta Cana in June.
Will Cox told the Staten Island Advance that his mother travelled to the Dominican Republic on June 5 and was expected to return on June 12.
She died one day after celebrating her 53rd birthday, and her body was found in her hotel room.
Will Cox said that US Embassy officials told him his mother died of a heart attack, but amid news of other deaths, he is considering the death suspicious.
“I have a right to be suspicious,” he told the Advance. “With everything going on in the news right now, we think she’s a casualty of what’s been happening.”
Robert Bell Wallace died after consuming a drink from his hotel minibar in April.
Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California, died in the Dominican Republic in April 2019.
His relatives told Fox News he had fallen ill after having a drink from his hotel room minibar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana while in the country for his stepson’s wedding.
Wallace’s niece, Chloe Arnold, told Fox News that Wallace was in relatively good health before his trip.
“He was fine,” Arnold said. “He and his wife arrived there at around midnight on April 10. On April 11 he had scotch from the minibar. He started feeling very sick, he had blood in his urine and stool right afterward.”
She said Wallace was hospitalized on April 13 and died on April 14. Dominican Republic officials have not given the family a cause of death, Arnold said.
4th death in Dominican Republic: Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California, became ill almost immediately after he had a scotch from the room minibar @ the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana. He was in the Dominican Republic to attend his stepson’s wedding. pic.twitter.com/TjF3ngLKcH
— DogWhisperer (@cannotrunfast) June 10, 2019
David Harrison, 45, died after falling ill at the same Punta Cana resort while on vacation with his family last year.
Dawn McCoy, of Charles County in southern Maryland near Washington, DC, told INSIDER that her husband, David Harrison, died while they were vacationing at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in the beach town of Punta Cana last July.
An autopsy said the 45-year-old died of a heart attack and pulmonary edema.
McCoy said Harrison had been in the Dominican Republic for nine days when he fell ill.
“He couldn’t talk, he was unable to sit up, everything that came out was just grunting,” she told INSIDER. “He was trying to talk, but nothing would come out.”
She said it took a doctor 22 minutes to get to their room. The doctor told McCoy that Harrison still had a faint pulse, but McCoy told INSIDER she now questions whether that was true.
Harrison was taken to the hospital, where McCoy said she waited two hours to speak with anyone and didn’t observe any doctors evaluating her husband in a nearby curtained room.
She said she was finally approached by a funeral director, who told her Harrison was dead.
McCoy did not opt for a second autopsy when she got back to the United States but says she now wishes she had. His body was cremated, according to WUSA.
Jerry Curran, 78, died in January while at a resort in Punta Cana.
Jerry Curran, 78, died three days after checking into the Dreams resort in Punta Cana on January 22, his daughter, Kellie Brown, told WKYC.
“He went to the Dominican Republic healthy and he just never came back,” Brown said.
Curran, of Bedford, Ohio, fell ill after having dinner and drinks with his wife, Janet, and friends, and was sent to the hospital after he started vomiting.
Brown recalled a family friend travelling with her father calling from the hospital.
“Your father needs surgery or he’s going to die and they need $US50,000 and you need to send it with a copy of your passport, the front and back of your debit card and an authorization stating that you would allow them to withdraw $US50,000,” Brown recalled.
Brown said she paid the money, but her father later died.
“He made it through surgery and he died about eight hours later,” Brown said.
Brown said four causes of death were given: pulmonary edema, cerebral hypoxia, subdural hematoma and severe encephalitic cranial trauma.
Vittorio Caruso, 56, died in June after mysteriously falling ill while on vacation in the Dominican Republic.
A State Department official confirmed to CNN that a man from New York suddenly became ill and died while on vacation in the Dominican Republic this month, but did not offer further details on his identity or cause of death.
The man’s sister-in-law, Lisa Maria Caruso, told News 12 Long Island that Vittorio died on June 17 after his family initially recieved a phone call that he was sick. Moments later they received another call confirming that he had died.
According to Fox News, Caruso was staying at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo. Lisa Marie told Fox News that he suffered from respiratory distress “after drinking something.”
“We found out he was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something,” she said. “We were told he wasn’t responding to any meds he was given and died. I honestly don’t know exactly what happened, as we have been told conflicting stories from different people there.”
Miranda Schaup-Werner died of respiratory failure in her hotel room on May 25.
Miranda Schaup-Werner, a 41-year-old from Allentown, Pennsylvania, collapsed and died suddenly on May 25 in her room at Bahía Príncipe hotel at the Playa Nueva Romana resort in La Romana after having a drink from the minibar, a relative told Fox News.
Schaup-Werner, a psychotherapist, had checked into the hotel with her husband, Daniel Werner. They were planning on celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary.
Jay McDonald, Daniel’s brother-in-law, told Fox News that Schaup-Werner had a mixed bottle of alcohol and soda from her hotel room’s minibar, and less than an hour later, she collapsed.
Werner performed CPR and called for help, and when paramedics arrived, they administered an epinephrine injection in case she suffered an allergic reaction. Shortly after, Schaup-Werner was pronounced dead.
McDonald said Schaup-Werner’s cause of death was listed as respiratory failure and pulmonary edema.
Edward Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day are believed to have died of respiratory failure at the same resort in May.
Edward Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day were found dead in their room at the Bahía Príncipe hotel at the Playa Nueva Romana resort in La Romana on May 30.
Dominican Republic police said that Holmes and Day died of respiratory failure and pulmonary edema, an abnormal buildup of fluid in the lungs – just like Schaup-Werner.
Police said medication meant to treat high blood pressure were found in the room, according to CNN. There was no sign of violence.
Yvette Monique Sport reportedly died of a heart attack at another Dominican hotel in the Bahia Principe chain.
Yvette Monique Sport, 51, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, died at a Bahia Principe hotel in Punta Cana in June 2018, according to Fox29.
Her death certificate said her cause of death was a heart attack, Sport’s sister, Felecia Nieves, told the local network.
Nieves said Sport took a drink from her hotel room mini bar, went to bed, and never woke up.
“We were promised within three months that we would receive a toxicology report to this day, which is almost a year now we’ve got nothing,” Nieves said.
A woman alleged she vomited blood after drinking what she believed to be a soda from her hotel room’s minibar.
“I was miserable,” she told the New York Daily News. “I was vomiting. I had stomach pains. The chemical burns were all over. I still don’t have sensation in my tongue.”
Montes said she told hotel staff about what happened and they offered her a couples massage and dinner.
She said they also wanted her to sign a non-disclosure agreement. She did not accept the offer.
A Colorado couple allege they were poisoned at the Dominican Republic resort where three people have died.
She said their room at the resort had a strong chemical smell, as if “somebody had dumped paint everywhere.”
“We were drooling excessively. My eyes would not stop watering,” she told the local ABC affiliate.
Knull said they changed rooms, but woke up the next morning soaked in sweat.
They cut their trip short and flew home to Colorado, where a doctor determined they had likely been exposed to organophosphate poisoning, meaning they had probably been exposed to pesticides.
“I was having the worst intestinal cramping I have ever experienced. It felt like a chainsaw going through my gut,” Knull told The Denver Channel.
A Delaware woman alleged she was attacked at a Dominican Republic resort in January.
She said was attacked in an hours-long assault by a man wearing a resort uniform after she had stepped out of her room to find a late-night snack.
Dominican Republic national police chief spokesman Col. Frank Durán told CBS News that officials are still investigating her claims, and say they have found inconsistencies.
Punta Cana Tourism Police spokesman Ramón Brito told NBC Philadelphia that investigators found “incongruencies” and “discrepancies” in statements made by Lawrence-Daley’s husband, Christopher Daley.
Daley has accused local authorities of mishandling the investigation and delaying the administration of a rape kit.
“Shark Tank” host and real estate investor Barbara Corcoran’s brother John was found dead of an apparent heart attack in a Dominican Republic hotel room in April. She said he had an existing heart condition.
“Shark Tank” judge Barbara Corcoran revealed her brother died of an apparent heart attack in April while staying at a hotel in the Dominican Republic.
Corcoran, who has nine siblings, said she doesn’t believe an autopsy was performed but was told he died from a heart attack.
She posted a statement on Instagram about John’s death, saying that he had an ‘existing heart condition.”
“We believe he died of natural causes, but you’re still never ready for the death of a loved one,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed with sadness for the lost lives in the DR and my thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones.”
Portia Ravenelle and Orlando Moore crashed their car into the ocean on March 27. Their deaths are not suspicious.
While their deaths are not suspicious, Portia Ravenelle, 52, and Orlando Moore, 40, are two other Americans who died in the Dominican Republic this year.
They were reported missing after they missed their flight from the Dominican Republic to Newark, New Jersey, on March 27.
Police found a car that matched the couple’s rental crashed at the bottom of the sea in April.
Officials had previously found an unidentified woman believed to be Ravenelle injured on the highway near where the car was later found. She was admitted to the hospital and died on April 4.
Dominican Republic national police chief spokesman Col. Frank Félix Durán Mejia told CBS News that a decomposed body was found on March 31, about 19 miles from the accident scene. Police believe the body was Moore’s.
Roads in the Dominican Republic are notoriously dangerous, dark, and close to the sea, according to the Rockland Westchester Journal News.
The US State Department alerted drivers to be safe on Dominican Republic roads in its 2018 Crime and Safety Report.
“Travel at night on intercity highways and in rural areas can be highly dangerous and is not advised due to animals on the road, poor road conditions and vehicles being driven at either very slow or excessive speeds, often with malfunctioning headlights or taillights,” the report read.
The Dominican Republic is on an “increased caution” travel advisory.
The US State Department currently rates the Dominican Republic at a level 2 out of 4 on its Travel Advisory system, meaning visitors should “exercise increased caution.”
It has held the 2 rating since the beginning of 2019.
An advisory from the State Department issued in April said: “Violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide and sexual assault is a concern throughout the Dominican Republic.”
It added: “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 Dominican Republic is also ranked fifth worst in the world for road deaths for capita, according to the World Health Organisation’s Global Status report.
- Read more:
- An Instagram influencer says she regrets not being fully honest about her Dominican Republic travels as the country faces scrutiny over recent tourist deaths
- The CDC and international health authorities are conducting tests at Dominican Republic resorts where tourists are falling ill and dying
- Here’s what travellers can do to stay safe in the Dominican Republic
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