The suspicious deaths of U.S. tourists in the Dominican Republic have ignited growing concerns about travel safety.
Over the last 12 months, a total of twelve Americans died under mysterious circumstances while visiting the Caribbean country. Many have wondered if these deaths were the result of foul play or if they were simply coincidental, as the Dominican Ministry of Tourism has claimed.
"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," Callie Murphy, spokesperson for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, said a in a statement to USA Today. "It is advisable to wait for the official reports before speculating on the causes of death."
While we continue to wait for solid answers, here's what we know about the situation so far.
Who has died and where?
The circumstances surrounding the mysterious deaths have been eerily similar. According to several reports, a number of the victims became unexpectedly ill after drinking from hotel minibars and/or eating at hotel-managed restaurants. Some of the deceased reported the same symptoms shortly before they were pronounced dead; these included blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, and respiratory issues.
Here is a list of U.S. tourists who have died over the last 12 months while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
Yvette Monique Sport, 51. Died June 23, 2018 at the Bahia Principe in Punta Cana.
David Harrison, 45. Died July 14, 2018, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana.
Vittorio Caruso, 56. Died June 17, 2019, at the Boca Chico Resort in Santo Domingo.
Khalid Adkins. Died June 25, 2019 in a Santo Domingo hospital after being forced to disembark his flight to the United States on account of his declining health.
Robert Wallace, 67. Died April 12, 2019, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana.
Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41. Died May 25, 2019, at the Bahia Principe Bouganville.
Edward Holmes, 63. Died May 30, 2019, at the Bahia Principe La Romana.
Cynthia Day, 49. Died May 30, 2019, at the Bahia Principe La Romana.
Leyla Cox, 53. Died June 10, 2019, at the Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana.
Joseph Allen, 55. Died June 13, 2019, at the Terra Linda Resort in Sosua.
John Corcoran, 60. Died at the end of April inside his hotel room in the Dominican Republic; his sister, Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran, said he died of "natural causes."
Tracy Jester Jr., 31. Died March 17, 2019 while vacationing with his sister at a resort.
Have there been other incidents?
A number of U.S. tourists claimed to have experienced sudden illness while staying in the Dominican Republic over the last several months. More than 40 Jimmy Buffett fans said they became violently sick back in April during their stay at the Hotel Riu Palace Macao in Punta Cana.
This week, it was reported that at least seven graduating seniors from Oklahoma got sick after eating at a restaurant inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, where they were staying for their class trip.
"We just don’t know what is happening," Liz McLaughlin, mother of one of the affected students, told the New York Post. "Is it the water? Is it the ice? Is it the food? Is it the food handling? Is it the pesticides?”
How does this affect travel to the Dominican Republic?
According to CNN, an estimated 6.5 million tourist traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2018; out of that figure, 2.2 million were American. It's also worth noting that tourism makes up about 17 percent of the country's economy, which explains why officials have seemingly dismissed theories of foul play.
The Dominican Republic has been rated a level 2 out of 4 on the U.S. State Department's Travel Advisory alert system. The ranking, which the country has held since spring 2018, warns visitors to "exercise increased caution" in wake of violent crimes in the country.
"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 U.S. State Department wrote.
A level 1 encourages visitors to exercise standard precaution when visiting a country; Level 3 states "reconsider travel"; and Level 4 has the most severe label, "do not travel."