Did bootleg liquor cause US fatalities at Dominican Republic resorts? Authorities are testing to see whether tainted distilled spirits poisoned travelers.
Authorities are investigating whether at least seven tourists who mysteriously died in the Dominican Republic were poisoned by counterfeit booze.
Officials want to know who supplied the alcoholic beverages the victims drank in the minutes and hours before their deaths over the past year — and if the drinks had any dangerous chemicals in them, law enforcement sources said.
Counterfeit liquor can turn deadly when distilled spirits are mixed with rubbing alcohol or methanol to dilute the products.
The FBI is assisting and will take blood samples from the dead back to its research center in Quantico, Va., according to a new report via the nypost.
The Dominican government insists the fatalities are isolated incidents, while reps for both of the resorts where victims have died — the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Bahia Principe — described the deaths as simple accidents.
Dominican Republic bootleg liquor: Are the deaths of 7 US travelers related to tainted distilled products?
But most of the deaths bear similarities, as they involve apparently healthy adults — at least some of whom drank from their hotel room minibar before suddenly becoming gravely sick.
Five American tourists have died in mysterious circumstances on the island this year, while the family of two others who died in 2018 say they now suspect their loved ones met foul play.
Others have reported falling ill, but surviving, after drinking from their minibars.
Of note, the nypost has cited the opinions of Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, who told the tabloid the symptoms among some of the dead — including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea — were consistent with poisoning from methanol or pesticides.
Methanol is a type of alcohol not safe for humans. It is regularly used as antifreeze.
‘Adulterated alcohol is usually methanol added to alcohol or just plain methanol, which is very, very toxic,’ Kobilinsky told the nypost.
‘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.’
Dominican Republic bootleg liquor: Health inspectors ramp up extensive tests.
Health inspectors from multiple agencies conducted extensive tests on the pool, air conditioning units, food areas and alcohol at two Bahia Principe resorts where three visitors died, said the Dominican Ministry of Public Health. They are waiting for the results.
‘There should be no methanol at all” in the liquor’, Kobilinsky said. ‘If it’s there, it means it’s been adulterated or put there deliberately.’
In 2017, Dominican National Police dismantled five labs used for the manufacture of alcohol not safe for human consumption.
But Hard Rock bartender Angel Santana, 43, said contamination claims were ‘not possible.’
‘I have been working here for nine years, and everything here has always been very safe,’ he said.
In a statement, the Hard Rock said clinical tests from Hospiten Bavaro, a hospital in Punta Cana, showed both deaths at its resort were caused by heart attacks.
The hotel also said it buys only ‘unopened products from licensed and reputable vendors.’
Are US travelers safe to travel to the Dominican Republic?
The US Embassy in the Dominican Republic released a statement on Wednesday saying it is working with the country’s government “to ensure that US citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican Republic.”
‘Dominican authorities have asked for FBI assistance for further toxicology analysis on the recent Bahia Principe, La Romana cases and our FBI colleagues tell us that those results may take up to 30 days,’ the embassy said. ‘We ask everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course.’
Dominican Republic’s tourism minister, Francisco Javier Garcia, told CNN that all of the deaths are isolated incidents.
‘Investigation into them is a top priority for us and for the National Police. We are asking them to deploy all resources to help provide answers as quickly as possible,’ he said.
The tourism industry accounted for more than 17% of the Dominican Republic’s economy in 2017, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. A quotient the country can not bear to lose as it seeks to address the spate of mystery fatalities as some US travelers are now reconsidering travel plans…..
— Front Pages Today (@ukpapers) June 14, 2019