Officials reveal cause of death for New York pizzeria owner who died in Dominican Republic

A New York man who passed away last Tuesday while vacationing in the Dominican Republic allegedly died from respiratory and heart failure, CNN reports. 

Vittorio Caruso, a former pizzeria owner from Glen Cove, died after reportedly feeling sick at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo. Last week, his sister-in-law, Lisa Maria Caruso, told Fox News that he had been in good health before he visited the Caribbean country.  

"We found out he was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something," she said at the time. "We were told he wasn't responding to any meds he was given and died. I honestly don't know exactly what happened, as we have been told conflicting stories from different people there."

A preliminary autopsy report released on Monday, however, disputed Lisa's assertion that Vittorio had been healthy, claiming instead that he had long suffered from hypertension, heart disease and pulmonary disease. The Dominican Republic's Attorney General's office, citing the report, further noted that the autopsy revealed that Vittorio had previously suffered heart attacks. It also contended that the 56-year-old was a frequent smoker and drinker. 

Vittorio's partner, Yomaira Ramirez de Jesus, purportedly told prosecutors that the victim began to cough and feel shortness of breath on June 11. Though he was treated and released, he reportedly complained to Ramirez de Jesus a week later about experiencing respiratory distress and chest pain. He was transferred to a hospital in Santo Domingo, where he unfortunately suffered from cardiorespiratory arrest and died. 

Vittorio's official cause of death is similar to that of others who have recently died on the island, although relatives of many of the victims remain skeptical. 

On June 13, New Jersey resident Joseph Allen was found dead in his room at the Terra Linda Resort in Sosua. The day before he died, he had complained to friends about feeling uncomfortably hot in the pool. An autopsy preliminarily revealed that Allen, who was found to have prior heart issues, may have died of cardiac arrest. 

Other victims who died under similar circumstances include New York Donette Edge Cannon, Pennsylvania woman Yvette Monique Sport, Maryland resident David Harrison, Californian Robert Wallace, Ohio resident Jerry Curran, Pennsylvania resident Miranda Schaup-Werner, Maryland couple Edward Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day, California resident Robert Turlock and New York resident Leyla Cox.

The FBI is currently assisting Dominican authorities in investigations into at least three of the deaths, and Dominican officials have scrambled to put an end to the rising fear over their country's safety. In a recent interview with Fox News, Ministry of Public Health spokesman Carlos Suero dismissed some of the mysterious deaths as "fake news." 

"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," he said. 

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