FBI finds no link among tourist deaths in D.R.

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Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
A beach in Punta Cana. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

The FBI has uncovered no connection with a cluster of tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic, supporting the country's position that the deaths were coincidental.

The FBI released the results of its investigation to the Dominican Republic. 

Media outlets had reported that some of the tourists died after drinking alcohol from their in-room minibar, fueling speculation that tainted alcohol was the cause of death. The resulting furor scared many Americans from traveling to the Dominican Republic, and visitor numbers plummeted. The Dominican Republic's tourism minister excoriated the media for reporting the deaths as "mysterious."

In an email, a State Department spokesperson said, “Toxicology testing completed to date have been consistent with the findings of local authorities. We have seen no increase over the past several years in the number of U.S. citizens who pass away while visiting or living in the Dominican Republic. Many of the U.S. citizen deaths reported in media were determined by Dominican authorities to be from natural causes.  We have no indication of any connection between these deaths.”

The FBI is still in the process of testing for two additional toxins and will provide Dominican authorities with those results when complete. 

A recent ASTA survey of 300 agents indicated that nearly 60% of their clients have canceled or postponed trips to the Dominican Republic. The Majestic Elegance Punta Cana is closed from Aug. 15 to Nov. 7 because of expected low occupancy.

Reacting to the FBI finding no connection with the tourist deaths, Signature Travel Network CEO Alex Sharpe said, "I hope that this incident will help everyone understand the impact of their words, especially the press.  This misrepresentation has impacted many who rely on tourism in the Dominican Republic, not to mention the U.S. travel industry that took a considerable hit from panicked guests canceling their plans since the false reports circulated."

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