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Why Are American Tourists Dying in the Dominican Republic?
News from Attorney Carlos Gamino

Why Are American Tourists Dying in the Dominican Republic?

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By Carlos Gamino

Pulmonary edema – fluid accumulation in the lungs.

That’s what officials in the Dominican Republic say is responsible for the deaths of seven American tourists this year, with the majority of them occurring within the past month.

The number of deaths has American officials scratching their heads, and the U.S. Embassy issued a statement that says, in part, “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. 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.”

Four of those who died were staying at Bahia Príncipe resorts, which are all part of a group of 14 all-inclusive hotels in the Dominican Republic. Many are close to each other, but authorities haven’t connected them.

The symptoms on each person’s death certificate are consistent with poisoning, according to Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. The poisoning, if that’s what caused the deaths, could have been accidental – but Inglesby said it’s difficult to say what really happened until toxicology reports become available. 

“It’s rare for travelers to die of unknown causes like this, and to have a high number of them in a relatively short period of time is alarming, shocking, sad. It’s something that investigators should be able to get to the bottom of,” said Inglesby. He also said that it’s “unconscionable and inexplicable” that toxicology reports haven’t yet been completed or released.

Some people also report being sickened at one of the resorts. Doug Hand and his wife Susie Lauterborn say they came down with fevers, nausea, cold sweats, diarrhea and fatigue while staying at the Grand Bahia Príncipe La Romana. Hand said he noticed a “moldy, mildewy smell like the A.C. or filter hadn’t been cleaned.”

Another couple, Kaylynn Knull and Tom Schwander, are suing the resort chain for $1 million due to their illness at the resort. Knull says she had blurry vision, nausea and diarrhea, as well as a persistent headache and uncontrollable episodes of sweating and drooling. Her family doctor said that the couple was exposed to organophosphates, a certain class of insecticides.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s happening in the Dominican Republic. Would you travel to one of these resorts? Do you believe this is a series of unfortunate coincidences, or do you think someone is guilty of negligence or of wilfully harming these people? Please join the conversation on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed to let us know what you think!

Carlos Gamino