Police believe the seven American tourists who have mysteriously died in the Dominican Republic over the past year may have been poisoned by bootleg liquor.
U.S. authorities who are scrambling to get to the bottom of a rash of deaths of American tourists on the Caribbean island are now looking into whether poisoned alcohol is a factor.
Investigators are trying to determine who supplied the alcohol the victims drank in the hours before their deaths, a law enforcement source told the .
They also want to test the drinks to see if they contain dangerous chemicals. The FBI will reportedly take blood samples from the dead victims to test back at its Virginia research center.
Officials in the Dominican Republic have insisted that the deaths are all isolated incidents but most of the victims were apparently healthy adults before their sudden deaths.
Several of them are known to have drank from their hotel room minibars before becoming extremely ill. The deaths have mostly occurred at two resorts: the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville hotel.
Seven Americans have died in suspicious circumstances over the past year: David Harrison, 45; Robert Bell Wallace, 67, Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41; Couple Nathaniel Edward Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49; Yvette Monique Short, 51 and Leyla Cox, 53.
The most recent deaths – the latest reported on Monday – have drawn attention to earlier deaths of American tourists at the two island resorts that received no publicity at the time but some of which are now considered suspect.
Five Americans have died this year alone between April and June at the resorts, while two others were reported in June and July last year.
FBI officials are now investigating each of the deaths.
Many others have also reported falling sick on their vacations but survived.
New York woman Leyla Cox, 53, was found dead in her hotel room on Monday – the day after her birthday. It is not clear yet which hotel she was staying in.
Her son William has claimed that no toxicology report was carried out on his mother because all the country’s machines are broken.
He said he was told by the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo that his mother died of a heart attack, but he is not ready to accept the official explanation given the other deaths.
Cox was said to be in good health, walked everywhere and was only an occasional drinker. Her son said she would likely have had a few drinks on vacation.
She flew to the Caribbean island on June 5 and was scheduled to return home on Wednesday.
Her family says they are waiting for her body to be transferred from the hospital to Blandino Funeral Home in Santo Domingo so they can make arrangements for her body to be returned to the U.S.
TIMELINE: American tourists who mysteriously died in the Dominican Republic
June 2018: Yvette Monique Sport, 51, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, dies after drinking from the minibar at at a Bahia Principe hotel in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Family said the previously healthy Sport had the drink, went to sleep and never woke up.
July 2018: David Harrison dies while on vacation at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana to celebrate his wedding anniversary. He woke up struggling to breathe and covered in sweat. He died that same day. His widow said he’d visited the doctor before the trip who’d given him a clean bill of health.
April 10, 2019 : Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California, became ill almost immediately after drinking an alcoholic beverage from his in-room minibar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana – the same hotel as Harrison.
April 14, 2019: Wallace dies in hospital four days after falling ill.
May 25, 2019: Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Pennsylvannia, dies within hours of consuming a drink from a resort minibar across the island at Bahia Principe Hotel in La Romana.
May 25, 2019: Cynthia Day, 49, and Nathaniel Holmes, 63, of Maryland, check into the Bahia Principe Hotel, La Romana.
May 30, 2019: Day and Holmes are found dead in their rooms.
June 10, 2019: Leyla Cox, 53, of Staten Island, New York, is found dead in her hotel room. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo informed her family that she died of a heart attack, but her son, William Cox, says he is suspicious.
Three people who died last month all arrived in the seaside resort area of San Pedro de Macoris on May 25.
Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Pennsylvannia, 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.
Schaup-Werner died within hours of consuming a drink from a resort minibar.
Maryland couple Cynthia Day, 49, and Edward Holmes, 63, were staying in the adjacent Grand Bahia Principe La Romana hotel.
They were found dead on May 30 in their room by hotel staff.
The three victims died of respiratory failure and pulmonary edema, while Schaup-Werner also had a heart attack, according to the Dominican Prosecutor’s Office.
Robert Wallace, a 67-year-old from California, died at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in the resort town of Punta Cana on April 14.
His niece said he had just drank a Scotch from his minibar before falling ill. He died four days later.
‘He started feeling very sick, he had blood in his urine and stool right afterward,’ his niece Chloe Arnold told Fox News said.
Pennsylvania woman Yvette Monique Sport, 51, died in June 2018 after drinking from the minibar at a Bahia Principe hotel in Punta Cana.
Her family said Sport, who was healthy up until her death, had the drink, went to sleep and never woke up.
Maryland man David Harrison, 45, died at the same at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in July 2018. He was on vacation with his wife Dawn McCoy to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
He woke up struggling to breathe and covered in sweat before dying hours later. His wife said he had visited the doctor before the trip who’d given him a clean bill of health.
McCoy said she initially accepted that her husband 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.
Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, told the New York Post that the symptoms of many of the victims – including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea – were consistent with poisoning from methanol or pesticides.
Methanol is toxic form of alcohol used as antifreeze. It is a light, colorless, flammable liquid with a odor similar to that of ethanol (drinking alcohol).
‘Adulterated alcohol is usually methanol added to alcohol or just plain methanol, which is very, very toxic,’ Kobilinsky told the Post. ‘It looks to me, from what I’ve heard and read, is that something was added to the drinks or bottles in those little refrigerators.
‘There should be no methanol at all (in the liquor). If it’s there, it means it’s been adulterated or put there deliberately.’
The Hard Rock resort said in a statement that it only purchases ‘unopened products from licensed and reputable vendors’.
Multiple other tourists have come forward in recent weeks saying they had fallen ill during vacations in the Dominican Republic.
Among them was 43-year-old New York woman Awilda Montes who visited the Bahia Principe La Romana last year with her ex-boyfriend.
She was staying at the same hotel where three of the people died and said she vomited blood after drinking a soda from the minibar of her room.
Montes had chemical burns inside her mouth that required medical treatment. At the time, she thought she had mistakenly drank bleach left behind by housekeeping.
Colorado couple Kaylynn Knull, 29, and Tom Schwander, 33, say they woke up in their hotel room at the Grand Bahia Principe with a pounding headache in June 2018.
They returned to the room later in the day to find a ‘chemical smell’. The couple changed their flights and flew home early.
Philadelphia couple 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. Her husband was also ill but his symptoms were less severe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined other international agencies in conducting tests at the Bahia Principe properties last week.
The FBI confirmed it was assisting local authorities in investigating the deaths.
U.S. State Department officials have issued a travel advisory for American tourists heading to the Dominican Republic, telling tourists to exercise ‘increased caution’.
Barbara Corcoran says brother’s heart attack was unrelated to the recent spate of U.S. tourist deaths in Dominican Republic
Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran has she does not believe her brother’s death in the Dominican Republic was related to those of seven American tourists which are currently being investigated by the FBI.
Corcoran’s 60-year-old brother John was holidaying on the Caribbean Island in April with a friend when he died from a sudden heart attack.
The circumstances at first appeared eerily similar to those surrounding the other American tourists who all died after becoming seriously ill on the island over the past 12 months.
But the real estate maven, 70, said in a statement on Instagram on Thursday: ‘My brother had an existing heart condition and we believe he died of natural causes.
‘I’m overwhelmed with sadness for the lost lives in the DR and my thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones.’
The multi-millionaire said her brother’s friend discovered his lifeless body on the floor of their suite.
No autopsy has been done but Corcoran clarified that it was not suspicious that her brother, a New Jersey resident, died on the Caribbean island, saying: ‘He loved the DR and vacationed there frequently