Mystery surrounds American deaths in Dominican Republic

‘I noticed a smell in the room’: Couple say they became violently ill at the same Dominican Republic resort where three Americans died as the FBI investigates a total of SIX US deaths in the country in the past year

  • The FBI confirmed it was assisting local authorities in investigating the deaths
  • Six Americans have all died within the past year at two Dominican resorts
  • Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, Cynthia Day, 49, Edward Holmes, 63, Yvette Monique Short, 51 Robert Wallace, 67-and  David Harrison, 45, have all died
  • A Philadelphia couple have now come forward to tell of their sickness  

A couple from Philadelphia have told how they became violently sick at the same Dominican Republic resort where a woman from Pennsylvania and another couple from Maryland also died. 

Doug Hand, 40, and his wife, Susie Lauterborn, 38, were vacationing at the Grand Bahia in June last year when they both became sick from what they believed to be food poisoning.

Lauterborn ended up having cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a temperature along with rashes on her torso.

Doug Hand, 40, and his wife, Susie Lauterborn, 38, were vacationing at the Grand Bahia in June last year when they both became sick from what they believed to be food poisoning

Her husband was also ill but his symptoms were less severe.  

‘I think it was the second or third day, she was just feeling horrible,’ said Hand to CBS Philadelphia.  

‘As soon as we got to the room, I noticed a smell. It smelled like a moldy, mildewy dirty air. My wife didn’t smell it but I like picked up on it right away. She started getting symptoms about a day-and-a-half, two days in,’ Hand said.

It’s reports such as this that are now seeing U.S. authorities scrambling to get to the bottom of a rash of deaths of American tourists in the Caribbean country, with the number of reported fatalities over the past year now rising to six. 

‘Maybe there’s something deeper here. It’s really crazy to hear that people had passed away,’ Lauterborn said.

‘I don’t think it’s just limited to those people either. I bet with some further investigating, they’ll find out that way more people that visited that place got sick or even died.’ 

Just weeks ago, Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Allentown, booked a room with her husband at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville hotel. 

She lost consciousness on the day of her arrival after going out on the balcony. She could not be revived by her husband or hotel medical staff.

Cynthia Day, 49, and Edward Holmes, 63, stayed in an adjacent hotel, Grand Bahia Principe La Romana. The engaged couple from Maryland was found dead on May 30 in their room by hotel staff.  

David Harrison, 45 (left), of Maryland died of an alleged heart attack while vacationing with his wife, Dawn McCoy (right) and their son at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana

Five days after Schaup-Werner’s death, Maryland couple Cynthia Day, 49, and Nathaniel Holmes, 63, were found dead at the same hotel 

According to the Dominican Prosecutor’s Office, the three victims died of respiratory failure and pulmonary edema, a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs. Schaup-Werner also had a heart attack.   

Almost 70 tourists have reported getting violently ill since March, according to a commonly used website, that tracks food-borne illness outbreaks. There was just 10 in the whole of 2018.

Meanwhile 431 people have posted on the site about their experiences in the last week. 

‘People report food-borne illnesses but it’s possible that they experienced some other type of contamination,’ said Patrick Quade, founder of the site. 

‘We started to see unusual activity in April when six people reported being ill on the island, but in June it exploded,’ Quade said to the New York Post.

Guests staying at other hotels, including Vista Sol Punta Cana Beach, Hotel Riu Palace Punta Cana and Iberostar Bavaro in Punta Cana, also reported illnesses on the website. 

The vast majority of incidents were in the Punta Cana region and at the Hard Rock property.

News of the deaths has drawn attention to earlier deaths of American tourists at island resorts that received no publicity at the time — some now suspect — may have been part of a pattern.

The sister of Yvette Monique Short told a Philadelphia television station that the 51-year-old died last June at the Bahia Principe after having a drink from the minibar in her room.

Two other deaths that have recently come to light occurred more than a year apart at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in the resort town of Punta Cana.

Another American, Robert Bell Wallace, 67 (shown at right, with his wife), died in April in the Dominican Republic at a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, six weeks before 3 others

Robert Wallace, a 67-year-old from California, died there April 14, after drinking a Scotch from his minibar and falling ill, his niece Chloe Arnold told Fox News.

‘He started feeling very sick, he had blood in his urine and stool right afterward,’ she said.

David Harrison, 45, had died at the same hotel in July 2018. His widow, Dawn McCoy, initially accepted that he succumbed to a heart attack, as she was told, but now questions it.

‘When all these people started passing, I stopped and thought to myself, ‘How can all these people have the same cause of death as David?’ ‘ she told The Washington Post.

Steven Bullock, a lawyer for Day’s family, said autopsies and tests will be performed on Day and Holmes in the US.

The vast majority of incidents were in the Punta Cana region and at the Hard Rock property 

Asked about contacts with Dominican police and authorities, Bullock said ‘it has been very, very difficult. We haven’t heard enough and that’s part of the problem.

‘We don’t seem to be getting anything from police. We have some reporters on the ground that are assisting us in gathering information that might be available,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Colorado couple Kaylynn Knull and Tom Schwander told CNN that they suffered from headaches, abdominal cramps and diarrhea after encountering a strong smell of chemicals in the La Romana hotel in June 2018.

According to tests done on their return home, they could have been exposed to pesticides used against ants and cockroaches.

The couple, who lodged a complaint, believes that the product has spread through the air conditioning system.

The FBI is aiding authorities in the Dominican Republic in investigating the deaths of six American tourists while they stayed at two different resorts within the past 12 months

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