Media reports detailing a rash of mysterious deaths of U.S. tourists in the Dominican Republic are nothing more than “fake news” aimed at hurting tourism to the country, a Dominican public health official claims.
DR Ministry of Public Health official Carlos Suero is pushing back against suspicions of foul play in the recent deaths of nine American tourists, citing preliminary autopsy reports showing the travelers died of natural causes.
Suero spoke more specifically to the case of Maryland couple Cynthia Day and Nathaniel Holmes, who were found dead in their room at a Dominican resort on May 30. The spokesman argued that the pair, who were engaged, exhibited “a lot of medical conditions” that may have been exacerbated by traveling.
“They had a lot of medical conditions,” Sueros told Fox News on Wednesday. “There were many bottles of prescription medication in their room. … They practically carried around a pharmacy with them.”
Suero said the couple had heart and blood pressure bills with them, as well as anti-depressants. Authorities also noted several bottles of blood pressure meds in the couple’s hotel room. It wasn’t clear who the medications were prescribed to.
“When you get on an airplane and travel with all that medical [baggage], this can happen,” he added.
The island official noted that Holmes, 63, complained to hotel staff that he wasn’t feeling well but decided to wait to see his regular doctor in the U.S. after learning the cost of medical attention.
The next day, he was found dead alongside his fiancée in their room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana resort, where the lovebirds had been staying since May 25.
Suero said Holmes passed away first and that Day, 49, passed shortly afterward from the mere “shock of seeing the person beside her dead.” Despite suspicions of foul play, he insisted there is nothing mysterious about the couple’s deaths.
An autopsy determined the pair died from respiratory failure and pulmonary edema, which is a buildup of fluid in the lungs. Day also reportedly suffered cerebral edema, according to the report.
Since the outset, Dominican authorities have said the bodies showed no signs of violence or trauma.
An attorney for the family, Steven Bullock, told People magazine that Day’s and Holmes’ remains were flown back to Temple Hills, Maryland, earlier this month and that their families plan on having independent autopsies performed, as well as a toxicology screening.
“The families of Cynthia Ann Day and Nathaniel Edward Holmes would like to thank the community for their condolences and support in their loss,” Bullock told the outlet. “We are continuing to investigate the exact cause of death. The families are determined to find out what happened and why.”
The couple’s deaths were the first to raise eyebrows before the deaths of several other tourists made national headlines in just the past few months. On Friday, the death toll jumped to 10 after a Louisiana woman died after honeymooning on the Caribbean island.
Sueros spoke out against reports on the deaths of at least eight other tourists who’ve died in the country since last year. Dozens of others have also reported falling ill while vacationing there.
In at least three cases, U.S. tourists died after consuming a drink from their hotel minibars, leaving many to speculate that they were poisoned.
Suero insists it’s all 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’re a popular destination,” Suero told Fox News. “People are taking aim at us.”
“People die all over the world,” he added, noting that 14 people died on the island last year. “No one said a word. Now everyone is making a big deal of these.”
The FBI and U.S. State Department have since stepped in to investigate a few of the deaths, but said so far the incidents don’t appear to be connected.