A man from Long Island, New York died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic earlier this month, making him the 10th American tourist in the past year to mysteriously die during a visit to the Caribbean island, CNN reports.
According to the victim's family, 56-year-old Victor Caruso was celebrating his retirement after selling the pizza shop he owned, when he became ill and died on June 17. Caruso's sister-in-law Lisa Maria Caruso said that he passed away suddenly during his stay at the Boca Chico Resort in Santo Domingo. She explained that the family received a call informing them that Caruso was sick, and minutes later they received a second call confirming that he had passed. "He was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something," she said.
The State Department told CBS New York that the cause of death remains unknown. Additionally, the family of the victim told the outlet that the Dominican Republic has given them "conflicting information" regarding the time and location of his death.
The victim's older brother told the New York Post that Caruso was "very healthy" and went to the doctor shortly before his vacation. “He went to the doctor before he left, and he had no problems,” Frank Caruso said. “I spoke to the doctor. He called me when he found out he died, and he said he did not see anything wrong before he left. He could not believe the news.”
The Dominican Republic National Police confirmed to CNN that Caruso died at a hospital in Santo Domingo of respiratory failure. The autopsy has yet to be completed.
The suspicious deaths of ten American tourists in the Dominican Republic have sparked concerns over travel safety in the Caribbean nation. Although an official through-line across the causes of death has yet to be identified, the circumstances have been rather similar. Several deaths have been reported after the victims drank from the hotel mini-bar or ate from hotel restaurants. Additionally, the symptoms several victims experienced in the moments leading up to their deaths have included similarities, including respiratory issues, blurred vision, nausea, and diarrhea.
In a statement to USA Today, Callie Murphy, spokesperson for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, said it's important to keep context and perspective at the forefront.
"While what happened is tragic and regrettable, (Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia) said it is important for everyone who wishes to disseminate information about the situation to do it in context and with perspective," she noted. "It is advisable to wait for the official reports before speculating on the causes of death."