Is the Dominican Republic Safe Enough For American Vacationers? A New Stat Says 'Yes'

With reports of at least a ninth American dead in the Dominican Republic in the last 12 months, some travelers may be questioning if the Caribbean country is still safe for travel.

A new study may provide some answers. The U.S. State Department suggested that presumptions of an increased risk to tourists in the Dominican Republic may be grandiloquent, according to NBC News.

Nine have died in the Dominican Republic this year from suspicious causes (many involve healthy, middle-aged adults staying at select hotels becoming suddenly ill). That number was down from the 15 reported deaths from unnatural causes through June in both 2011 and 2015, according to NBC News.

"We have not seen an uptick in the number of US citizen deaths reported to the department," a department official told NBC News.

And in a statement last week, Dominican Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García cited results from a survey by the country's central bank that reported 99 percent of Americans who visited as tourists in 2018 "said they would return to our country on vacation."

Yet, the circumstances of the nine American deaths this year seem suspect.

Yvette Monique Sport, 51, died at Bahia Principe Bouganville hotel in June 2018. A heart attack is listed as her cause of death. Her sister, Felicia Nieves, apparently told media that her sister had a drink from the minibar inside her room, went to bed and never woke up.

Nearly one month later, David Harrison, 45, died at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana. His death was also ruled a heart attack, according to media reports.

Thomas Jerome 'Jerry' Curran, a 78-year-old man from Bedford, Ohio, died on January 26, 2019. Before he died, he was admitted to the hospital from his hotel, Dreams Resort in Punta Cana. One of the causes of death listed was pulmonary edema, his daughter told WKYC.

She added that her family was told Curran "needs surgery or he's going to die and they need fifty thousand dollars and you need to send it with a copy of your passport, the front and back of your debit card and an authorization stating that you would allow them to withdraw fifty thousand dollars."

In April, Robert Wallace, 67, of California was hospitalized after suddenly becoming ill after drinking scotch from the minibar in his room at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, his niece told Fox News.

Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, died at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in La Romana on May 25. A family spokesperson told Fox News that she died after apparently taking a drink from the minibar. Dominican officials said she died of a heart attack.

Days later, Edward Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, were found dead in their room at the neighboring Grand Bahia Principe resort. The cause of death for both Holmes and Day was listed as respiratory failure and pulmonary edema.

On June 10, Leyla Cox, 53, died while vacationing at the Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana, with her cause of death reported by the hotel as a heart attack. Most recently, Joseph Allen, 55, of New Jersey was found dead at Terra Linda Resort in Sosua.

Despite the statistics, the circumstances of the deaths in question seem like a yearlong pattern to some, including but not only to the victims' families.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns travelers that drinking from another country's tap water increases the risk of hepatitis A, typhoid and cholera.

Punta
Tourists rest at Bavaro beach, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on January 16, 2012. Tourism is the main industry in Dominican Republic, and Punta Cana is one of the leading tourist destinations in the Caribbean. ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images
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