Dominican health official dismisses mysterious deaths as 'fake news'
In an interview with Fox News, a Dominican Republic health official dismissed the latest string of recent deaths in the country as "fake news."
Ministry of Public Health spokesman Carlos Suero took a page from U.S. President Donald Trump's playbook while fighting back against accusations that his country is no longer safe for American tourists. Since June 2018, at least nine people have suspiciously died at resorts throughout the Caribbean island.
"It’s all a hysteria against the Dominican Republic, to hurt our tourism, this is a very competitive industry and we get millions of tourists, we are a popular destination," Suero said.
Many of the deaths have either involved the consumption of questionable alcohol or the use of hotel amenities. Suero, however, maintained that testing of the hotel properties by government health inspectors, with assistance from the U.S. Embassy, has turned up negative results.
"The testing results are all negative, everything – the food, the alcohol, the air – is normal, there is no alteration of the alcohol," he said. "With all the tourists we get every year, we make sure we comply with international standards for everything."
The State Department did not corroborate Suero's assertion but released a statement confirming that the FBI is investigating at least three of the deaths that have occurred lately.
"The FBI is providing technical assistance to Dominican authorities with toxicology reports for three recent deaths at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana resort," the statement read. "Our FBI colleagues tell us that those results may take up to 30 days."
The three specific deaths the agency is looking into all happened last month.
On May 25, Pennsylvania psychotherapist Miranda Schaup-Werner suddenly collapsed after having a drink in her room. At the time, she had been celebrating her ninth anniversary with her husband. Authorities ultimately determined that Schaup-Werner, who had previously been diagnosed with inflammation around her heart 15 years earlier, died of respiratory failure and pulmonary edema.
Five days after Schaup-Werner's passed, Maryland couple Edward Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day were found dead in their room after they failed to check out of their hotel. Dominican police later claimed they found medication for high blood pressure in the pair's room and concluded that the two died of the same illness that Schaup-Werner did.
Nevertheless, relatives of all three victims remain adamant that their loved ones were healthy before they flew out to the Dominican Republic. The FBI has since stepped in to see whether other factors may have led to the trio's passing.
Other tourists who have died in the past year include Pennsylvania resident Yvette Monique Sport, Maryland resident David Harrison, Ohio resident Jerry Curran, California resident Robert Turlock, New York resident Leyla Cox and, most recently, New Jersey resident Joseph Allen.
Still, Suero told Fox News that he is unconvinced that there is any foul play involved in any of the deaths.
"People die all over the world," he said. "Unfortunately, very unfortunately for us, these tourists have died here. We had about 14 deaths last year here of U.S. tourists, and no one said a word. Now everyone is making a big deal of these."