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June 20, 2019, 5:20 p.m. EDT

Dominican Republic health official calls rash of tourist deaths ‘fake news’ 

FBI is investigating three of the nine American deaths that have occurred there in the past year

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By Nicole Lyn Pesce


ERIKA SANTELICES/AFP/Getty Images
Tourists rest at Bavaro beach, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Dominican Republic health officials say there is no trouble in paradise.

Carlos Suero, a spokesman for the nation’s Ministry of Public Health, told Fox News that the nine Americans who have died on the Caribbean island in the past year died of natural causes, according to their preliminary and final autopsy reports. He dismissed media coverage of the mysterious deaths as “fake news” even as Dominican Republic officials have used the hashtag #BeFairWithDR on social media.

“It’s all a hysteria against the Dominican Republic, to hurt our tourism … People are taking aim at us.”

Carlos Suero

Suero said that the U.S. Embassy has assisted D.R. government health inspectors with testing the food and alcohol, the pools and air conditioning, and other areas of the properties where the tourists became fatally ill. Several of the American tourists reportedly drank from the minibar in their rooms before getting sick.

“The testing results are all negative, everything – the food, the alcohol, the air – is normal, there is no alteration of the alcohol. With all the tourists we get every year, we make sure we comply with international standards for everything,” Suero said.

Suero added that, “People die all over the world. Unfortunately, very unfortunately for us, these tourists have died here.”

“We had about 14 deaths last year here of U.S. tourists, and no one said a word. Now everyone is making a big deal of these.”

Carlos Suero

The U.S. State Department told Fox News in a statement that “We are closely monitoring ongoing investigations by Dominican authorities into several recent deaths of U.S. citizens in the Dominican Republic.”

It added that, “The FBI is providing technical assistance to Dominican authorities with toxicology reports for three recent deaths at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana resort. Our FBI colleagues tell us that those results may take up to 30 days. For all other questions regarding investigations into recent deaths (and attacks) of U.S. citizens, we refer you to local authorities in the Dominican Republic.”

More than 6.5 million tourists from around the world flocked to the Dominican Republic last year, including around two million Americans. And in the first few months of 2019, the island welcomed more than 600,000 tourists — or an 8% increase compared to the same time last year. It remains to be seen whether the recent deaths will lead to a slump in visitors.

Some travelers who had already scheduled trips to the D.R. have shared their concerns on social media, however, or called out airlines like United /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL +0.53% and Jet Blue /zigman2/quotes/207639051/composite JBLU +0.73%  for not refunding their tickets as fear has driven them to cancel their vacations there. “Trying to cancel a Dominican Republic trip for my daughters sweet 16, 14 people have to pay $250 per ticket because united refuses to waive the fees,” wrote one user. Another man who called himself a “loyal supporter of JetBlue” tweeted that, “I’m disappointed that I had to cancel my reservations for Dominican Republic and can’t get a refund when people are dying there.”

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