A New Jersey man died at a hotel in the Dominican Republic last week, his family says, making him at least the ninth US tourist to die at a Dominican Republic resort, or after becoming ill at one, over the past 13 months.
Joseph Allen, 55, of Avenel, New Jersey, was found dead June 13 in his room at the Hotel Terra Linda in the coastal Dominican Republic city of Sosua, his sister Jaimie Reed told CNN.
Preliminary autopsy results suggest that he suffered from cardiac arrest. There were no signs of violence, according to the report, which Dominican authorities provided to CNN.
Allen’s family doesn’t know what caused his death. He was traveling with friends, and had stayed at the same resort many other times before, Reed said.
Allen’s friends have told the family that he complained about not feeling well last Wednesday. Hotel staff found him dead in his room early Thursday after friends expressed concern that he hadn’t met up with them that morning, Reed said.
The US State Department confirmed the death.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family for their loss,” a State Department spokesman said. “Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we do not have additional information to provide.”
Officials in the Dominican Republic have called the deaths isolated events as they work to reassure travelers their country is safe.
Of the nine Americans who have died at a Dominican Republic resort or after becoming ill at one since June 2018, it’s not clear how many were of natural causes.
“In the last five years, over 30 million tourists have visited the Dominican Republic, but this is the first time the international media report such an alarming situation,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia said earlier this month. “These are isolated incidents and the Dominican Republic is a safe destination.”
Officials say Dominican Republic still safe
Dominican Republic leaders maintain the country is one of the region’s top tourism destinations — with more than 6 million tourists last year — 2.2 million of them Americans, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Government spokesman Roberto Rodriguez Marchena put out a video calling the country the “largest, fastest growing, tourism destination of the Insular Caribbean.”
“Cheerful, welcoming and hospitable, our Dominican Republic, the economy that grows the most in America, with its beautiful beaches and mountains, its tasty gastronomy and hardworking people, invites you to know and love it,” he said in a tweet last week.
The spokesman said 14 million Americans have visited since 2012.
From 2012 to December 2018, 128 Americans have died in the Dominican Republic from something other than natural causes, according to statistics available on the US Department of State website. The deaths include drownings, homicides, suicides, and vehicle and other accidents.
The State Department has a standing travel advisory for the Dominican Republic — as well as some other highly visited Caribbean nations such as the Bahamas and Jamaica — urging Americans to exercise increased caution because of crime.
But the department has not issued a travel alert specific to the deaths in the Dominican Republic, and American officials have not said this year’s deaths were connected.
Matthew Bradley, regional security director for the risk management firm International SOS, said in a statement this month that the Dominican Republic is still a safe destination.
“These incidents, while recent, in my mind don’t indicate Dominican Republic is any less safe than it was before,” Bradley said. “I would tell people to continue with trips.”
8 other Americans died during resort stays, or after becoming ill there, since June 2018
On June 10, Leyla Cox, 53, died in her room at Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana, the hotel told CNN on Sunday.
The hotel said the cause of death was a heart attack, citing a forensics report. CNN has not independently confirmed the contents of the report. Excellence Resorts says it is cooperating with local and US authorities and expressed “sincere condolences to all of those affected by the recent incidents.”
On May 30, staff at the Bahia Principe La Romana found Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, dead. The couple had internal bleeding, including in their pancreases, Dominican authorities said. Holmes had an enlarged heart and cirrhosis of the liver — both signs of significant pre-existing disease, the Dominican authorities said, and Day also had fluid in her brain.
The couple also had fluid in their lungs, Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez Sanchez’s office said in a statement. Authorities wouldn’t provide more details on the cause of death until toxicology results are completed.
Miranda Schaup-Werner checked into the same resort on May 25, where she shared a room with her husband, Dan Werner. She had a drink from the minibar and suddenly felt ill, family spokesman Jay McDonald told CNN affiliate WFMZ. Shortly afterward, she collapsed and died.
Schaup-Werner suffered from a heart attack, pulmonary edema and respiratory failure, according to a preliminary autopsy cited by the Attorney General’s Office of the Dominican Republic.
Businesswoman and “Shark Tank” TV star Barbara Corcoran said her brother died in his hotel room in the Dominican Republic in late April. John Corcoran “passed away from what is believed to be natural causes,” she said in a statement.
On April 12, 67-year-old Robert Wallace died after becoming ill at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, relatives told CNN affiliate KTXL.
“While we are deeply saddened by these incidents, and our thoughts go out to all of those affected, we, along with the general public, will be monitoring the facts as they unfold surrounding these events,” the hotel said in a statement.
Last July, David Harrison, 45, died at the same hotel, according to his wife, Dawn McCoy. She said her husband returned from a snorkeling excursion one day earlier and he said he wasn’t feeling well. Early the next morning, she said, he was sweating and unable to get up before he died. The cause of death was listed as a heart attack and pulmonary edema by local authorities.
And in June 2018, Yvette Monique Sport died at the Bahia Principe in Punta Cana, her sister, Felecia Nieves, told CNN. She had traveled there with a group of friends, her first vacation in eight years, Nieves said.
Sport took a shower and went to bed after having drinks with her fiancé, Nieves said. Sport also had a drink from the minibar, she said. Her fiancé heard her make “a gurgling sound” in her sleep, Nieves said. The next morning, Nieves said he discovered that she was dead. The family is still awaiting toxicology reports.