FBI Wraps Up Investigation Into Deaths of Nearly a Dozen U.S. Tourists In Dominican Republic, Says They All Died of ‘Natural Causes’

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Earlier this  year, the FBI was called to investigate after nearly a dozen American tourists mysteriously died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. The agency has since shuttered its probe after concluding thhat all the travelers died of “natural causes.”

For the investigation, the FBI conducted its own toxicology reports, which it said were consistent with the findings previously reported by authorities in the island nation.

Dominican Republic
Engaged couple Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day had been vacationing in the Dominican Republic since May 25 and were supposed to fly back home together when they were found dead in their hotel room on May 30. (Image courtesy of Facebook / Nathaniel Holmes)

“The results of the additional, extensive toxicology testing completed to date have been consistent with the findings of local authorities,” the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs told FOX43 in a statement. “Our condolences and sympathy go out to the families during this difficult time.”

According to the outlet, the agency presented its findings to the families of those that died, as well as Dominican officials, on Sept. 16.

Authorities in the Caribbean nation have long maintained that the tourists, 11 in all, passed away of natural causes, with autopsy reports showing some of the victims died of cardiac arrest, pulmonary edema or pneumonia.

The country is a popular getaway for travelers from the U.S. and abroad,  and saw an estimated 2.7 million visitors in 2017 alone. However, the DR experienced a big dip in tourism the followings year after media reports about perfectly healthy Americans suddenly falling ill and dying while on vacation there.

According to State Department data, a total of 13 U.S. citizens died in 2018 while visiting the DR. An estimated 17 died in 2017.

Concerns were raised earlier this summer after Maryland couple Cynthia Day and Edward Holmes were found dead inside their hotel room at an all-inclusive Dominican resort after suffering what an autopsy concluded to be “respiratory failure.” A tourist from Pennsylvania, Miranda Schaup-Werner, suffered a similar fate just five days earlier while vacationing at a nearby resort with her husband.

Schaumburg-Werner fell ill and died after having a drink from the hotel room’s minibar, relatives said. She too suffered respiratory failure and pulmonary edema, according to an autopsy report.

In the weeks afterward, several similar stories came out about U.S. tourists becoming violently sick after drinking from minibars, prompting wide-spread fears they were being poisoned. Among the victims was 51-year-old Yvette Monique Sport, whose sister said she grabbed a drink before going to bed and didn’t waken to see the next day. 

Sport, whose autopsy report concluded she died of a heart attack, was in perfectly good health before traveling to the Dominican Republic, her sister said.

Reynold A. Panettieri Jr., a Rutgers physician who specializes in toxicology and wasn’t involved in the FBI probe, stressed the importance of a thorough review by authorities, as there were a number of possibilities to be explored.

“It’s definitely very strange,” Panettieri told People earlier this year. “Healthy people don’t just die. And the couple dying at the same time certainly tips us off that something is very wrong.”

An official with the country’s public health ministry decried media reports of the tourists’ deaths as “fake news” aimed at hurting tourism to the DR.

“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,” Carlos Suero, a spokesman for the DR’s Ministry of Public Health, told Fox News. “People die all over the world. Now people make a big deal over these.”

Since the spate of deaths, FOX43 reported that that nation’s tourism agencies have updated their emergency policies to include more frequent hotel inspections and emergency information in each hotel room.

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