9 American Tourists Have Died in the Dominican Republic

Earlier this month, Amir Allen traveled to the Dominican Republic to meet his father for Father’s Day. But when he got off the plane, he learned that Joseph Allen, 55, from New Jersey, had died of cardiac arrest, said Amir’s uncle, Jason Allen.

Joseph Allen had arrived on the island on June 9 to celebrate a friend’s birthday and was found dead in his room at the Terra Linda Resort in Sosua on June 10.

“He was a funny guy, full of life,” said Jason Allen, who noted that his brother, though heavyset, was healthy.

[Read more about the deaths of American tourists in the Dominican Republic.]

Mr. Allen is at least the ninth American to die in the Dominican Republic over the last year. Because of the similarities among the deaths, family members of the deceased have suggested that they are connected and have raised suspicions about the resorts where they stayed. Mr. Allen’s family has joined the other families in calling on Dominican and American authorities to investigate the cause of the deaths and if there is any connection between them.

“I think there’s probably some kind of negligence somewhere,” Jason Allen said on Thursday.

News of Mr. Allen’s death came just days after Leyla Cox, 53, from Pennsylvania, died in her hotel room at Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana. Other deaths, which were apparently related to cardiac issues, include: Yvette Monique Sport, 51, of Glenside, Pa., at a Bahia Príncipe resort in June 2018; Mark Hurlbut, 62, of Grand Prairie, Tex., in June 2018; David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana in July 2018; Robert Wallace, 67, of California, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana in April of this year; Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Allentown, Pa., at the Luxury Bahia Príncipe Bouganville, on May 25; and Nathaniel Edward Holmes 63, and Cynthia Ann Day, 49, of Prince George’s County, Md., at the Grand Bahia Príncipe La Romana on May 30.

The Dominican Attorney General’s office and the national police are investigating the deaths, and the U.S. State Department said last week that the F.B.I. was assisting. On the State Department website, the Dominican Republic has a “level 2” travel warning on a one to four scale, which encourages travelers to “exercise increased caution” if traveling to the island. The warning was last updated in April.

Frank Pallone, a New Jersey congressman sent a letter to the F.B.I. and the State Department about the deaths. In it, he asked the State Department to increase its warning for travelers, writing on Twitter on Wednesday evening that he was “extremely saddened” by the deaths. Mr. Allen was from the congressman’s district.

Tourism officials in the Dominican Republic have been downplaying the deaths.

Francisco Javier García, the tourism minister, said that the deaths are “isolated incidents” and the island is safe for tourists. He also said that in the last five years, more than 30 million tourists have visited the country. Americans make up about a third of the country’s tourists, with more than two million visiting every year.

It is still unknown whether the nine Americans who died at resorts in the Dominican Republic died of natural causes. Toxicology reports can take up to a month.

The string of deaths has also left travelers in the United States wondering if they should cancel their trips; some travel agents advise people not to go to the island until investigations are complete.

“If someone asked about Punta Cana, I would not recommend going there right now,” said Sharon Jackson, a travel agent based in Houston.

Tariro Mzezewa is a travel reporter at The New York Times.  @tariro

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