At least six American tourists have died in the past year while traveling in the Dominican Republic or soon after arriving home. The latest — yet not the most recent — is coming to light now after the family members of Robert Wallace are coming forward to tell the public about his death after he visited DR for his stepson’s wedding. The California man was staying at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, and his family claims that Wallace “died after drinking scotch from the minibar,” CBS News reports.
Wallace’s death, which happened in April, is part of a string of suspicious deaths on the island of the Dominican Republic in the past year and most recently just last month. Three deaths in May occurred within days of each other. A Pennsylvania woman died from a lung condition, and a Maryland couple died of similar causes. All three were staying at the Grand Bahia Principe. Yvette Monique Sport died last year at the same resort, and according to her sister, she too died after drinking from the minibar. Her sister said she had a drink, went to bed, and didn’t wake up.
“There is something… something dirty at the bottom of all of this,” Nieves’ sister told CBS News. “She was 51 years of age, relatively healthy, no reason for her to go on vacation and just die so suddenly.”
David Harrison of Maryland also died last year after his stay at the Hard Rock Hotel and Resort, which means four deaths occurred at the Bahia resort, two happened at the Hard Rock Hotel. While these deaths are a cause for alarm, a tourism official said there is nothing to worry about because it’s all circumstantial.
“Sometimes in life, there can be a law of sequences,” Francisco Javier Garcia, the Dominican Republic minister of tourism, said in a press conference last week. “Sometimes, nothing may happen to you in a year. But in another week, three things might happen to you.”
That comment seems a little too flippant for our taste. We understand the tourism board does not want to have a panic on their hands, but to not address the issue entirely by doing an investigation is highly problematic.
Red Sox player David Ortiz was also recently hospitalized after being shot at a night club in his native Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. He was flown on Monday to Boston and taken by an ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital about 24 hours after he was shot in the back. Though the incident seems unrelated, it has only contributed to the panic. Quite a few folks have already shared on social media about canceling their vacations to the DR.
Marci Hudson and her boyfriend shared with CBS News how they recently canceled a trip to Punta Cana.
“It was pretty much like a no-brainer,” Hudson said. “They don’t really have a clear explanation as to what’s happening … we’re not even gonna risk it. We don’t want to be next.”
CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg said that tourists going to the Dominican Republic — or anywhere for that matter — should not be scared to travel there, but they should always proceed by using common sense. He says tourists should examine their room and ask the resort questions such as “what kind of chemicals are used to clean rooms, how often are the mini bars inspected and restocked and how can staff ensure the drink labels at the minibar match what’s inside.”
For those of us who travel regularly, we know we can ask every question in the book and hotel staff will most likely be reassuring, though if you genuinely take them at their word, how much are you ultimately risking?