SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - Tourism officials in the Dominican Republic are reassuring U.S. tourists that U.S. federal agents and health specialists are actively investigating the deaths of Americans who vacationed there.
At least six tourists have died in resorts in the Dominican Republic this year, many of them spanning within a few days to a few weeks of each other.
In a separate case, a woman in Delaware said she was allegedly beaten for eight hours by a resort employee before he dumped her in a hole and she was found by search groups.
The Dominican Republic Tourism Ministry said it extended condolences to the families and friends of those affected in the tragic events that were reported in the country.
The statement also highlighted the FBI’s role in the investigation into those deaths, which involved people who were said to be generally healthy and showed no signs of illness before their vacations. Some drank beverages from a room minibar before becoming severely ill, according to reports.
Tourism officials noted that U.S. agencies are working closely with Dominican investigators. The FBI specifically is looking deeper into toxicology results, the statement said, and that the final assessment may take up to a month.
FBI officials are also receiving help from experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, according to Fox News.
The federal agency is examining the results of three of the six U.S. tourists who died. Those three cases are the most recent deaths and all happened within five days of each other in May at Bahia Principe Resorts in close proximity to each other in La Romana.
Miranda Schaup-Werner, a 41-year-old psychotherapist from Allentown, Pennsylvania, was preparing to eat with her husband when she felt sick and later died on May 25. The couple were staying at Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville hotel.
A family spokesman told Fox News that she collapsed after having a drink from the minibar.
On May 30, a Maryland couple were found dead in their room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana. Edward Holmes, 63, and his fiancée Cynthia Day, 49, appeared to have suffered respiratory failure and had fluid in their lungs.
The resort company, Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts, tweeted out a statement with comments on all three deaths.
In response to the information that has been circulating in different media outlets— BahiaPrincipe (@BahiaPrincipe) June 5, 2019
regarding the two unfortunate events in the Dominican Republic, Bahia Principe
Hotels & Resorts would like to clarify the following: pic.twitter.com/Pg8QFmaq1L
In regards to Schaup-Werner, the company stated that the National Institute of Forensic Sciences and the National Police Investigations Unit determined her cause of death to be a heart attack and that her husband, Dan Werner, confirmed she had a history of heart conditions.
As for Holmes and Day, the resort company said there appeared to be “no signs of violence” and the investigation remained ongoing.
“These two events took place in two different hotels,” the statement said. “To date, there are no indications of any correlation between these two unfortunate incidents. In both circumstances, established security protocols were followed, and we have maintained open communication with the authorities to provide information and clarification for each case.”
The statement has prompted relatives to raise doubts and a lack of trust with authorities in the Dominican Republic.
As news of these deaths continues to populate headlines, The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana issued its own public statement after two Americans staying at the resort also fell ill and died suddenly within the last year.
Hard Rock’s statement reassured the public that it is tightening oversight, according to Fox News.
Robert Wallace, of California, died at the hotel in April after he suddenly fell ill. Last year, David Harrison, of Maryland, also died at the resort.
Hotel officials told Fox News they are “deeply saddened by these two unfortunate incidents, and we extend our sincerest sympathy to the families of Mr. Harrison and Mr. Wallace. We are currently waiting for official reports regarding these deaths.”
The country’s tourism ministry said it is also working to improve quality control in food and beverages in tourist facilities and improve safety for visitors.
More than 6 million tourists visit the Dominican Republic each year, which is an important source of revenue for the country. But the U.S. Department of State rates the Latin country as a “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution” out of four on its travel advisory scale because of crime.
The most recent travel advisory issued on April 15, 2019, noted that “violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide and sexual assault is a concern throughout the Dominican Republic.”
One such violent act took place in January, when a Delaware woman, her husband and another couple stayed at the Majestic Elegance Punta Cana hotel.
Tammy Lawrence-Daley posted photos of her bruised and battered face on Facebook to warn other women to be careful at resorts. She recounted being attacked by a man dressed in a hotel uniform for eight hours before she was found.
“This man thought he killed me, but he failed. He is still out there, a predator, waiting for his next victim. Only the next woman may not be so fortunate,” she said.
Lawrence-Daley said that the hotel claimed “no responsibility for the attack” and “didn’t offer to reimburse us for our vacation, let alone my current medical bills.”
Majestic Elegance issued a response to Lawrence-Daley, stating she received all necessary attention and care following the “unfortunate incident.”
Official information from Majestic Resorts Punta Cana pic.twitter.com/97BIdz7aEE— Majestic Resorts - 5* star luxury hotels (@MajesticResorts) June 5, 2019
But while the statement corroborated some of Lawrence-Daley’s details of the attack, it said that she appeared to only have “bruises on her face and had broken the nail of her little finger.” The resort also said she had “no scratches or other signs of violence on her body and still had her purse and cellphone with her.”
In another instance of violence, Red Sox legend David “Big Papi” Ortiz was shot in the back on Sunday during an ambush while he was at an outdoor restaurant in Santo Domingo.
The suspected gunman was caught and beaten by a crowd of people who were at the bar. By Wednesday, at least six suspects were detained in connection to the shooting.
Ortiz, 43, was flown to Boston for emergency surgery. His wife said Wednesday that the former Red Sox player is able to sit up and take some steps as he recovers at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.