A New Jersey man mysteriously died in the Dominican Republic last Thursday, bringing the total number of American tourists who have suspiciously passed away on the island in the past year to nine, NBC News reports.
Joseph Allen, 55, of Avenel, was found unresponsive in his room at the Terra Linda Resort in Sosua, his family said. At the time, he was celebrating his friend's birthday.
The family said that Allen, who had checked into his hotel on June 9, complained to his friends about being hot in the pool three days after his arrival. The man reportedly told them that he would take a shower and rest for the night. Unfortunately, they did not hear from him the next day.
"The maid opened the door, screamed, slammed the door," Jason Allen, Joseph's brother, told WNBC. "My brother is on the floor dead between his room and the bathroom."
Joseph's 23-year-old son had also purportedly flown to the island to celebrate Father's Day with him only to learn of his father's tragic passing. Jason said the family has since had unresolved questions surrounding his brother's death.
"I'm fine with the passing, but we do want some answers," he said. "We want some closure to figure out what's going on and why this is happening. And we don't want anyone to feel how we're feeling right now."
On Tuesday, however, Dominican authorities publicized preliminary findings of Joseph's autopsy. According to the report, a medical examiner had apparently concluded that Joseph — who was found to have prior heart issues that included hardening of the arteries — may have died of cardiac arrest.
Still, the man's family has remained skeptical and is determined to get his body back to the U.S. in order to get a second opinion.
"I don't know who to blame," Jason told WNBC. "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."
Since June 2018, nine cases of troubling deaths have taken place at resorts throughout the Caribbean island. Last year, at least two Americans — notably Pennsylvania woman Yvette Monique Sport and Maryland resident David Harrison — reportedly died as a result of heart attacks, although family members of both victims claim the two were healthy prior to their passing.
This year, multiple deaths at resorts in Punta Cana and La Romana — some of which involved the consumption of questionable alcohol — have occurred. The victims include Ohio resident Jerry Curran, California resident Robert Turlock, Pennsylvania psychotherapist Miranda Schaup-Werner, Maryland couple Edward Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day, and New York resident Leyla Cox. In most of the cases, authorities asserted that the victims of respiratory failure and pulmonary edema. The FBI is currently looking into several of the incidents.
Since then, Dominican officials have attempted to calm fears over their country's safety. At a press conference earlier this month, Francisco Javier Garcia, the island's minister of tourism, suggested that the recent spate of deaths was coincidental.
"Sometimes in life there can be a law of sequences," he said. "Sometimes, nothing may happen to you in a year. But in another week, three things might happen to you."