STUMP » Articles » Mortality with Meep: People Continue to Die in the Dominican Republic and the PR Problem Continues » 24 June 2019, 17:13

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Mortality with Meep: People Continue to Die in the Dominican Republic and the PR Problem Continues  


24 June 2019, 17:13

I’m just watching at this point.

Again, this is no longer a statistics argument.

It made the front page of the New York Times… of course I have to blog this.

Crisis Hits Dominican Republic Over Deaths of U.S. Vacationers

The tourism minister grimaced as he read aloud the causes of death in autopsy reports of the growing number of Americans who have died recently while vacationing in the Dominican Republic: Heart attack. Septic shock. Pneumonia.

More accustomed to ribbon-cutting ceremonies than to grappling with the uproar over Americans turning up dead in their hotel rooms, the minister, Fernando Javier García, insisted that the authorities had nothing to hide.
The United States government, which holds remarkable sway in the Dominican Republic compared with some other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America, appears to support the Dominican government’s contention that the alarm over the deaths may be exaggerated.

“We have not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported to the Department,” said an official with the State Department, who was not authorized to give their name.

Of the nine Americans who have died in the Dominican Republic over the last year, five have reportedly died of heart-related conditions, including one whose family said they do not view the death as suspicious. (Cardiovascular problems account for nearly half of all American tourist deaths abroad, according to the Centers for Disease Control.)

One would expect that — as it is, cardiovascular causes are a top reason for death… the other major one being cancer. Generally, cancer deaths are not “surprise” deaths that happen while on vacation. Sure, one can die of undiagnosed cancer, but… okay, this is depressing enough. I won’t continue further down that path.

Three others, including the Maryland couple, were reported to have had respiratory issues, and one man’s family said he fell ill and died after drinking whisky from a hotel minibar, although Dominican authorities say his death was caused by septic shock, multiple organ failure and pneumonia.

With the latest reports, the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry, and its wager on luring vacationers to colossal all-inclusive resorts, are coming under international glare. These palatial complexes often combine ostentation, minimal contact with local communities and abundant opportunities for overindulgence.

Overindulgence is key. For me, I had an experience like this on a cruise.

FWIW, all-inclusive resorts tend not to be “palatial” unless your idea of a palace includes motel-like bedding, etc. They tend to make it easy for you to booze it up and to have fun on the beach, etc., and never have to figure out how to get on a bus and find a Walmart.

Yes, some of the resorts are fancy, but a lot of them are not. Many people go because it’s affordable. Not everybody is doing a $500/day trip.

The F.B.I. investigators are specifically examining the case of the Maryland couple, Nathaniel E. Holmes and Cynthia A. Day, who were found dead in their hotel room at the Grand Bahia Principe hotel in La Romana on May 30. Another American, Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Allentown, Pa., died at the same resort complex on May 25.

Autopsies showed that the deaths of the Maryland couple were a result of respiratory failure brought on by pulmonary edema — fluid in the lungs. But attempts to explain how that happened quickly became confusing. Several bottles of medication were found in their room. The spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, Carlos Suero, told Fox News that Mr. Holmes died first, and Ms. Day died afterward, “probably from the shock of seeing the person beside her dead.”

They mention the age of Miranda, but what about that dead couple? According to this, Holmes was 63 and Day was 49. They allude to medication…without naming what it was. Hmm.

With questions continuing to swirl, Mr. García, the tourism minister, said in an interview that the authorities were carefully reviewing the deaths in La Romana and that it could take 30 to 40 days for comprehensive toxicology reviews to be completed.

In the meantime, researchers who study human exposure to pesticides and other chemicals said the circumstances of the Maryland couple’s death — in the same room on the same night — increase the likelihood that they died of poisoning or another environmental factor.

“Some of the earlier cases did seem to be consistent with organophosphate poisoning,” said Dana B. Barr, a professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health.

Dr. Barr pointed to a case in the United States Virgin Islands in 2015, when a Delaware family of four was seriously injured after being exposed to a pesticide when the apartment below them was fumigated.

In poisoning cases, Dr. Barr said, the problem often stems from the pesticide not being properly contained. The chemicals could seep into a vent that is not adequately sealed, or be sucked inside by a hotel air conditioner.

Before the Maryland couple’s death came to light, the Dominican tourism industry started drawing greater scrutiny in late May when a Delaware woman, Tammy Lawrence-Daley, said she had been attacked in January at the Majestic Elegance resort in Punta Cana by a man in a hotel uniform, who severely beat her and left her for dead.

Okay, that’s a very different kind of peril… and one the resort folks really wouldn’t like advertised.

Tensions ratcheted higher over security in the country when David Ortiz, the former Boston Red Sox slugger, was shot in the back this month in a popular bar in Santo Domingo.

David Ortiz is not a random American visiting the Dominican Republic, of course. He was born in Santo Domingo in the DR.

Dawn McCoy, whose husband, David Harrison, died while on vacation in July 2018 at the Hard Rock Hotel, said that she wasn’t suspicious about his passing until she learned of the recent spate of deaths. The couple’s trip last year was their 19th visit to the Dominican Republic.

“I like to say, we were lucky 18 times,” she said.

Feeling ill with what he initially thought was food poisoning, Mr. Harrison had left his wife and son at the pool and returned to their room, where he slept for more than six hours, she said. The couple then went to the casino until about 2:30 a.m., and returned to the room after Mr. Harrison again felt ill.

“They’re being so pleasant, but they’re saying, ‘I’m sorry, that’s the policy,”’ Ms. McCoy recalled. She said she called the front desk twice more, begging for an ambulance, until the hotel doctor arrived exactly 22 minutes after her first call. The ambulance came another half-hour after that. Mr. Harrison died later that day — July 14, 2018.

Again, not including age with deaths…. Harrison was 45.

An autopsy and toxicology report for Mr. Harrison, shared by Ms. McCoy, said his death was a result of clogged arteries. Tests for common recreational drugs were negative. Ms. McCoy said he took medicine for high blood pressure.

I can see this as credible, frankly. As I keep mentioning, my dad died due to clogged cardiac arteries. He was 38.

Gregory G. Davis, a professor of forensic pathology and the chief coroner and medical examiner in Jefferson County, Ala., reviewed the autopsy for The New York Times and said it appeared to be a thorough examination that did not raise any red flags.

“I have no doubt that his death came as a great surprise to his family, but it seems fairly straightforward,” Dr. Davis said. He said the report indicated that the man’s heart was heavy and showed signs of clogged arteries.


Anyway, they just go through the details of stories that have already been in the NY Post, etc. They didn’t really add to the story.

The Dominican Republic still has a PR problem. It’s on the front page of the NY Times… but seriously, the multiple stories in the NY Post and on Fox News is problematic enough for them. Maybe NYT readers go to the DR, but I’m willing to bet a lot of them are NY Post readers.


Well, one more death, at least.

Long Island pizzeria owner is latest Dominican Republic death

A Long Island pizzeria owner joins the growing list of tourists who have died suddenly in the Dominican Republic.

Vittorio Caruso, 56 of Glen Cove, died June 17 while staying at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo, the US State Department confirmed to Fox News Friday.

His sister-in-law, Lisa Marie Caruso, said he was in good health when he suddenly went into respiratory distress after “drinking something.”

“We were told he wasn’t responding to any meds he was given and died,” Lisa Marie Caruso told Fox News, adding that the family is awaiting autopsy results. “I honestly don’t know exactly what happened, as we have been told conflicting stories from different people there.”

Caruso, who was scheduled to return to New York June 27, is among three tourists in the past month and at least 11 in the past year who died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. Dozens more have reported illnesses.

One of the big reasons this is a story is a lot of the people dying are from New York, or the general area. There are a variety of reasons NYers are central to this:

1. There are a lot of Dominicans who live in NYC… so there are a lot of flights from NYC to the DR.
2. A lot of cheap flights to DR, and vacation packages for NYers.
3. A lot of people live near NYC.

I’m no longer going to calculate a damn thing (okay, if somebody else writes a piece that has stats in it, I’ll link, but I don’t feel like calculating any probabilities right now…..

…okay, I do have something bubbling in my mind, but I’ll wait til later.)


Just dumping stuff that didn’t make it into the prior posts.

For the last one, it’s not even clear the DR officials are stonewalling… just that they don’t have resources, and evidently it takes weeks for toxicology test results to come back.

I assume the foo-for-raw will die down (pardon) after the big traveling season. When you have thousands of people, especially middle-aged and older folks partying heartily, you’re going to expect a higher frequency of deaths just because your exposure amounts (people-days) have increased.

Oh look – here’s something from the last linked story:

Government data shows that the Dominican Republic welcomed more than 6.5 million visitors from around the world in 2018. In the first two months of 2019, the country saw more than 600,000 tourists – an increase of 8 percent compared to the same time last year. Of those 600,000, 65 percent came to the Dominican from North America, mainly the U.S.

Perhaps there’s an uptick in deaths simply because more people are visiting?

And, of course, maybe there is no uptick at all.

Well, as I said, I’m not doing stats this time.

Oh, and if you want to see what a post looks like when I’m working on it, you can check out this livejournal post, where I put my progress because I was having database trouble. I guess I’ll be using as my backup in general. Bleh.

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