FBI investigating tourist deaths in Dominican Republic

As travel agents, tour operators and hotels face Dominican
Republic cancellations, the FBI has joined the on-island investigation to
determine what caused the recent deaths of tourists who drank from resort
minibars. 

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo said that Dominican
authorities had asked the FBI to assist with toxicology analysis on the recent
deaths of three Americans at a Bahia Principe resort complex, and that the
results may take up to 30 days.

The three recent deaths prompted the families of three other
Americans who reportedly died while in the Dominican Republic to say that at
least two died after drinking from minibars. The Embassy said that “at
this time we have no indication of any connection between those tragic losses
and the cases currently under investigation.” 

The Embassy further said that it is working with the government
of the Dominican Republic and the private sector “at the highest levels to
ensure that U.S. citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican
Republic.”  

The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Tourism said it is
working closely with authorities to solve the cases, including the National
Police, the National Hotel Association (ASONAHORES) as well as with the FBI and
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to complete the
investigations and keep the public informed as new findings arise.”

The Ministry also said it was working with ASONAHORES to
reinforce safety conditions and quality control in food and beverages.

“We are confident that we can provide a definitive
answer as soon as possible,” Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia
in a statement. “You can also be sure that the necessary measures will be
taken to make the country even safer for all visitors.”

The Ministry stressed that that 6.6 million tourists visited
the Dominican Republic last year, of which 3.2 million came from the U.S. and
Canada, and that almost 30 million tourists have visited the country in the
last five years.

Bahia Principe has not updated its statement since June 7,
when it said that had established a “firm commitment to collaborating
completely with the authorities.” 

The company accused
the media and other platforms of spreading “inaccurate and false
information,” saying that the alleged misinformation has negatively
impacted the brand. 

“We completely disagree with the dissemination of false
information issued publicly which threatens the image and reputation of the
company and the integrity and rights of our employees and their families,
reserving, where necessary, the right to take the appropriate legal action,”
Bahia Principe said.

Bahia Príncipe operates 14 hotels totaling some 7,100 guestrooms
in the Dominican Republic.

Two of the tourist deaths occurred at the Hard Rock Hotel
& Casino Punta Cana. 

“We are currently waiting for official reports
regarding these deaths, which occurred in July of 2018 and April of 2019,
respectively,” the property said in an emailed statement. 

The Hard Rock also said, “We currently implement
beverage protocols, including purchasing sealed and unopened products from
licensed and reputable vendors, as well as daily inspections of all products
served throughout the hotel bars and in-room liquor dispensers. Additionally,
our team members are trained to inspect all supplies, equipment and products
that enter the property. Of course, we will continue to evaluate and
recalibrate our protocols to strengthen and enhance guest safety.”

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