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Long Island pizzeria owner another American tourist to mysteriously die in the Dominican Republic after he 'suffered respiratory problems after having a drink'
A Georgia man has died of a 'respiratory illness' while on holiday in the Dominican Republic - becoming the 13th American to die there in under a year.
Jerome Jester Jr. of Forsyth, Georgia, died on March 17 this year just a day after going sightseeing in the Caribbean nation, according to his family.
The 31-year-old had been on vacation with his sister, who called for an ambulance after he started having difficulty breathing.
Jester's sister told ABC News: 'He just dropped to his knees and started throwing up blood, and was calling for Mama.'
Jerome Jester Jr., 31, died on March 17 this year on a short vacation to the Dominican Republic with his sister
Jester's sister said he was vomiting blood before she called an ambulance and he later died
His mother Melody Moore told WSB-TV-2 she spoke to him the day before he died.
NY woman, 53, is killed by 'heart attack' in hotel room to become 7th American in last year to die in mysterious circumstances in Dominican Republic
A Long Island pizzeria owner has reportedly become the 14th documented case of an American tourist who has died in the Dominican Republic under mysterious circumstances in the last three years as one hotspot hotel decides to remove liquor dispensers in response to the rash of deaths.
Vittorio Caruso, 56, of Glen Cove, died on June 17th shortly after he reportedly drank something and became critically ill at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo.
The State Department confirmed Caruso’s death to the Fox News Channel.
Lisa Maria Caruso, Caruso’s sister-in-law, told Fox News that Vittorio was in good health.
He owned a pizzeria with his brother until a month ago. She said he traveled alone to the Dominican Republic.
‘We found out he was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something,’ Caruso said.
‘We were told he wasn't responding to any meds he was given and died.
‘I honestly don't know exactly what happened, as we have been told conflicting stories from different people there.
Vittorio Caruso (left), 56, of Glen Cove, New York, died on June 17th at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo. Jerry Curran, 78, of Ohio, died in January while staying at the Dreams Resort in Punta Cana. Their deaths bring the total number of American vacationers who died in the last year in the Dominican Republic to 12
Caruso told Fox News that Dominican authorities wanted to cremate the body, but the family refused, saying it wants an autopsy.
‘It is very hard to get a straight story from anyone there,’ she said.
‘They even wanted to cremate the body. We insisted on having the body sent back here.
‘This was a complete shock to us, as Vittorio was not a sick person.
‘He was expected to return home on June 27.’
In response to the strange rash of deaths, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana announced that it would remove liquor dispensers from minibars in hotel rooms.
Hotel management also announced that it has hired an American-based health care company to inspect the premises so as to 'ensure the on-site health clinic is complying with all international and US standards,' according to the New York Post.
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana announced that it would remove liquor dispensers from minibars in hotel rooms
Two of the 14 Americans who have died in the Dominican Republic in the last year stayed at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana.
Earlier on Saturday it was learned that a retired police officer from Ohio became the 11th American vacationer to die suddenly in the Dominican Republic.
Jerry Curran, a 78-year-old who had served with the Bedford Police Department for 32 years before becoming a bailiff, died in January while staying at the Dreams Resort in Punta Cana.
Three days after he and wife Janet arrived at the resort on January 22, Curran began vomiting and was unresponsive. He underwent surgery but died hours later, WYKC reports.
'He went to the Dominican Republic healthy and he just never came back,' said daughter Kellie Brown.
She, along with sisters Kim Pidala and Jackie Sikes, have been trying to understand the cause of their father's death after learning of the others in the news.
'I thought something's not right my father was a healthy 78-year-old, he took care of himself and I just didn't think anything like this was possible, but then I started to hear other people's stories,' Kellie added.
Three days after he and wife Janet arrived at the resort on January 22, Curran began vomiting and was unresponsive. He underwent surgery but died hours later
Garcia did not speak on the deaths of Susan Simoneaux and Donette Cannon. Yvette Monique Scott was also not mentioned in the briefing
Kellie was shocked when she received a call telling her of her father's medical problems around 3am on Friday morning.
'Your father needs surgery or he's going to die and they need fifty thousand dollars and you need to send it with a copy of your passport, the front and back of your debit card and an authorization stating that you would allow them to withdraw fifty thousand dollars,' Kellie said.
Kellie sent $40,000 while her mother put $10,000 on a credit card.
For the sisters, the time of death that the hospital and U.S. embassy put is just one red flag that they've noticed. The time put was 11am on January 26 but Kellie asserts she got the call several hours beforehand.
Concerns are also raised over the cause of death.
'One of them is pulmonary edema which seems to be common in everyone else who's passed that we're learning about,' Kellie added.
Also listed were Cerebral hypoxia, severe encephalitic cranial trauma and subdural hematoma.
Doctors stated that the pulmonary edema was 'scant' and not enough of a reason to be a direct cause of death. The brain injury was also questionable.
'He never complained of hitting his head or falling,' Kellie said. She admitted that Jerry was taking blood thinners, which could have impacted his health.
The sisters plan on sending their father's medical records to doctors in the States. Kellie shared that she has also spoken with FBI.
She stressed the importance of getting medical insurance when traveling.
Jerry's personal insurance did eventually pay the money Kellie and her money spent but sent the check in the retired officer's name. They are working to have that changed.
In a statement to WYKC, the resort mentioned Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García's assertion that the recent deaths can all be attributed to natural causes.
'Dreams Punta Cana has a range of safety, security and quality control protocols in place, including having a physician living on-site. We take the safety and security of every guest seriously, providing industry best practices and extensive staff training to manage the needs of guests,' they added in the statement.
'This includes training to recognize and respond to a range of health situations and support guest safety quickly and with compassion. All security agents are trained in emergency protocols, and we have clear procedures for addressing health issues, which were correctly followed in Mr. Curran’s situation.'
On Thursday, the families of two U.S. citizens revealed that their loved ones died suddenly in the Dominican Republic and are now questioning the circumstances of their deaths.
Chris Palmer, a 41-year-old Army veteran, and Barbara Diane Maser-Mitchell, a 69-year-old retired nurse from Pennsylvania, are among the two latest confirmed to have died in the DR, the State Department said to Fox News.
Palmer was found dead in his room at the Villa Cocotal Palma resort in Punta Cana on April 18, 2018. Maser-Mitchell suffered cardiac arrest after leaving the Excellence resort in Punta Cana and died on September 17, 2016.
Chris Palmer, a 41-year-old Army veteran, and Barbara Diane Maser-Mitchell, a 69-year-old retired nurse from Pennsylvania, are among the two latest confirmed to have died in the DR
Palmer was found dead in his room at the Villa Cocotal Palma resort in Punta Cana on April 18, 2018
Dominican authorities said that Palmer had a pulmonary edema and died as a result of a heart attack, which was listed as his official cause of death.
The Dominican Republic's tourism minister said recent media coverage of deaths at resorts are 'exaggerated' and are a result of natural causes, leaving the son of one of the casualties to call the country's response 'disgraceful'.
'As soon as he died, I wondered if he was poisoned, if he was drugged,' said Bernadette Hiller, an ex-girlfriend of Palmer who saw him a week before he died. 'He was healthy as a horse.'
Palmer, a salesman and scuba diving instructor, told friends he was feeling ill while at the resort. Hiller said that he had a really bad headache.
It is unknown whether Palmer had a beverage from the hotel bar or the mini bar, and he was said to be in the country to sell timeshares and teaching scuba diving at the resort.
He was found dead in his room on April 18 and Dominican authorities said he had aspirated on his vomit.
Maser-Mitchell suffered cardiac arrest after leaving the Excellence resort in Punta Cana and died on September 17, 2016.
'We are devastated and are seeking answers,' Hiller added. 'This was so sudden and unexpected. This has been a nightmare for his family.'
Maser-Mitchell was in the DR celebrating her birthday with her son and his partner.
On her second day at the resort, and after drinking, the retired nurse complained about feeling sick. She went up to her room, which was adjacent to her son's.
Dominican authorities said that Palmer had a pulmonary edema and died as a result of a heart attack, which was listed as his official cause of death
She was still feeling under the weather on the next day and did not join the group for breakfast.
'In the 15 years I knew her, she never suffered aftereffects,' companion, Terry Mackey, said.
Growing worse, her family called the resort doctor who asked the mother if she wanted to go to a hospital. After initially declining, Maser-Mitchell said she would go.
While in the ambulance Maser-Mitchell went into cardiac arrest. 'I was sitting in the ambulance with her, holding her hand the whole time,' Mackey said.
She added: 'The hospital personnel were not kind or helpful.'
Maser-Mitchell's body was returned to the U.S. but her family were forced only have a viewing because her body was in bad shape.
Mackey was unsure whether the retired nurse had a drink from her room's minibar.
Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García told reporters that autopsies for the fatalities show the tourists died of natural causes. He said five of the autopsies are complete, and three are undergoing further toxicological analysis with the help from the FBI because of the circumstances of the deaths.
With some 3.2 million U.S. tourists visiting the Dominican Republic last year, he said, it's not unusual for eight people to die while on vacation over any six-month period.
Dominican officials say they are confident the three deaths still under investigation were also from natural causes.
'We want the truth to prevail,' García said. 'There is nothing to hide here.'
Garcia did not elaborate on the two latest deaths to be added to the tally.
The first deaths to make headlines, and still the most mysterious, were those of a couple who seemingly died at the same time in the same hotel room. The bodies of Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Ann Day, 49, were found May 30 in their room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana hotel. Several medications were found in the room, including an anti-inflammatory drug, an opioid and blood-pressure medicine, García said.
García said the number of U.S. tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic dropped 56 percent from 2016 to 2018, although he did not provide further numbers or details
William Cox, the son of Leyla Cox, shared his frustration with the lack of information he has gotten on his mother's death and asserted that she did not die from a heart attack. 'It's absolutely disgraceful. It's disgraceful to dismiss the families with everything that's going on over there,' Cox said
Autopsies found pulmonary edema, an accumulation of fluid in the lungs frequently caused by heart disease.
Soon after the couple's death, family members appeared in U.S. media reports questioning the death of Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, who died May 25 at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville hotel. A family spokesman told reporters that she collapsed after getting a drink from the minibar.
An autopsy found that she died of a heart attack, García said.
García said the number of U.S. tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic dropped 56 percent from 2016 to 2018, although he did not provide further numbers or details. The U.S. State Department also discounted the idea of a surge of tourist deaths, saying the agency had not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen who died there.
VICTIMS (left to right, top to bottom): Leyla Cox, Robert Bell Wallace, Yvette Monique Sport, Miranda Schaup-Werner, David Harrison and Joseph Allen
García showed reporters a summary of pathologists' findings in each death but declined to share the autopsy reports, saying they are not public records and that only the families could authorize their release.
Jerry Curran, 78, died Jan. 26 in the Dreams Punta Cana resort, and an autopsy report blamed pulmonary edema and other causes, García said.
Then on April 12, 67-year-old Robert Bell Wallace of California died of septic shock, pneumonia and multi-organ failure. A week later, on April 19, 70-year-old John Corcoran died of natural causes. Family members have said he had a pre-existing heart condition, and officials did not release further details.
'What some media are describing as an avalanche of deaths doesn't correspond to the reality that we're living today in the Dominican Republic,' García said.
A Staten Island woman has become at least the seventh American in the last year to die while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, and family wants answers.
Leyla Cox, 53, of New Brighton was found dead in her hotel room on Monday, and her son William has claimed no toxicology report has been carried out on her because all the country's machines are broken.
Cox said that he was told by the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo that his mother died of a heart attack, but in light of recent news reports about Americans dying during their vacations, he is not ready to accept the official explanation.
'I have a right to be suspicious,' he said. In a phone interview with the New York Post he explained: 'The Dominican Republic has not released an autopsy report.
'They will not do a toxicology report on her because they say the toxicology machines in the Dominican Republic are broken.
Leyla Cox, 53,was found dead in her hotel room in the Dominican Republic on Monday, and her son William (pictured together) says he is 'suspicious' after being told no toxicology report has been carried out on her because all the country's machines are broken
Leyla Cox, 53, of New Brighton, flew to the Dominican Republic on June 5. She was expected to spend a week on the island before flying back to New York on Wednesday, according to her son, William Cox
Cox says he was told by the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo that his mother died of a heart attack
'I've been trying to get her body flown back to the US, so we can do our own autopsy and our own toxicology report,' he said.
'But unfortunately that will cost a fortune. And I do not have anywhere close to that sort of money.'
Toxicology reports - drug tests done on people who have died - cost thousands of dollars.
Police believe the seven American tourists who have mysteriously died in the Dominican Republic over the past year may have been poisoned by bootleg liquor.
The Caribbean island has said the deaths are isolated incidents, but U.S. law enforcement sources told the New York Post that they are looking into who supplied the alcohol the victims drank in the hours before their deaths.
They also want to test the drinks to see if they contain dangerous chemicals.
One source told the Post that the FBI will take blood samples from the dead back to its Virginia research center for testing.
Most of the victims were apparently healthy adults, several of whom are known to have drank from their hotel room minibars before becoming extremely ill.
Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, told the New York post that the symptoms of many of the dead and sick, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are consistent with poisoning from methanol or pesticides.
Methanol is toxic form of alcohol used as antifreeze. It is a light, colorless, flammable liquid with a odor similar to that of ethanol (drinking alcohol).
'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,' he said.
They've put me against a wall where I don't have a choice,' William said.
'I don't know how she died. I don't know where she died — I know it was in a hotel. I don't know if she was in a room or at the bar.'
Leyla flew to the Caribbean island on June 5 and was expected to spend a week on the island before flying back to New York on Wednesday, William told the Staten Island Advance.
The family says it is waiting for her body to be transferred from the hospital to Blandino Funeral Home in Santo Domingo.
'Once they have her, they're going to call me, and they're going to make arrangements with me,' said William.
Another factor that will likely complicate any attempt to find out what happened is the fact that his mother wished to be cremated - which would preclude any toxicology report.
Leyla was found dead in her hotel room on Monday June 10, just one day after her birthday.
Cox said he and his family had urged his mother not to go to the island given the recent events.
'My family wanted her to not go on this vacation,' he said.
'I truly believe if my mother was not in the Dominican Republic, she would have been alive right now.
'With everything going on in the news right now, we think she's a casualty of what's been happening.'
Cox said he spoke to his mother days before her departure.
'I called her on a Sunday and wished her a happy birthday,' he said. 'I told her I loved her.'
It is unclear if Leyla Cox stayed at one of the resorts where other Americans have fallen ill.
Earlier on Thursday, an Atlanta couple said they fell violently and mysteriously ill while on a vacation to Dominican Republic.
Vanessa McNelley-Neal and her husband James say they were the victims of a 'very intense' sickness while on a break on the island.
Vanessa McNelley-Neal and her husband James have become the latest tourists to say they fell violently and mysteriously ill while on a vacation to Dominican Republic
Cynthia Day, 49, and Nathaniel Holmes, 63, of Maryland, checked into the Bahia Principe Hotel, La Romana on May 25. They were found dead in their rooms five days now and their families say they now plan to carry out their own autopsies on their bodies
Four American tourists have died at the Bahia Principe hotels and two at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana.
FBI officials say they're now investigating each of the deaths.
The brother of Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran, John, was also found dead in a Dominican Republic hotel room in April. Corcoran said in a statement on Instagram Thursday that her brother had an 'existing heart condition and we believe he died of natural causes'.
Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran has she does not believe her brother's death in the Dominican Republic was related to those of seven American tourists which are currently being investigated by the FBI.
Corcoran's 60-year-old brother John was holidaying on the Caribbean Island in April with a friend when he died from a sudden heart attack.
John Corcoran (right) the 60-year-old brother of Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran, (left) was found dead in a Dominican Republic hotel room in April
The circumstances at first appeared eerily similar to those surrounding the other American tourists who all died after becoming seriously ill on the island over the past 12 months.
But the real estate maven, 70, said in a statement on Instagram on Thursday: 'My brother had an existing heart condition and we believe he died of natural causes.
'I'm overwhelmed with sadness for the lost lives in the DR and my thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones.'
The multi-millionaire said her brother's friend discovered his lifeless body on the floor of their suite.
No autopsy has been done but Corcoran clarified that it was not suspicious that her brother, a New Jersey resident, died on the Caribbean island, saying: 'He loved the DR and vacationed there frequently.'
But the family of Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day, who died at the Bahia Principe Hotel, La Romana, say they plan to carry out their own autopsies on their bodies.
Their attorney Steven Bullock told People: 'We are continuing to investigate the exact cause of death. The families are determined to find out what happened and why. At this time the cause of death remains a mystery.
'We look forward to getting the FBI findings.'
An autopsy carried out in the Dominican Republic said Holmes and Day they both died of respiratory failure and pulmonary edema. Day also reportedly suffered from cerebral edema.
The McNelley-Neals told 11Alive they had been staying at the same chain of hotels as other Americans who have died or suffered from illness.
The couple first visited in October last year before returning a month later.
Vanessa said: 'We had a good couple of days and then started feeling ill.
'Started having really bad abdominal cramps. Thought it was some kind of a GI [gastrointestinal] issue. I had a light headache.
'I had food poisoning years ago in Tahiti so I know what that feels like and it did not feel like that,' Vanessa said. 'The stomach cramping was very different. It was very intense. It was not the normal stomach pains.
'Anything we took didn't really help.'
Her husband James added: 'I had a heavy headache that just lasted and lasted. I took everything and nothing phased it.'
The couple, living in Puerto Rico at the time, went to the doctor when they first returned home but doctors there and later in Atlanta could not determine what was wrong with them. They say they were sick for at least three weeks.
Vanessa added: 'We just left it be until people started having the same issues and it sounded very similar to what we had going on and it just didn't make a lot of sense.'
The couple now say they hope 'other people will come forward' and an investigation is launched.
Tourist Jerry Martin, from Plant City, Florida, also claimed to have fallen ill at Caribe Club Princess Beach Resort & Spa in Punta Cana last month.
He told Fox 13: 'We were down at the pool when it hit, and I had to go up and just lay down and hold my stomach. It was on fire.'
DailyMail has contacted the resort for comment.
The Atlanta couple Vanessa and James McNelley-Neal stayed at the same chain of hotels as others who died, 'It was very intense. It was not the normal stomach pains', Vanessa said
Tourist Jerry Martin, from Plant City, Florida, pictured, also claimed to have fallen ill at Caribe Club Princess Beach Resort & Spa in Punta Cana last month
Cynthia Day, 49, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland and her fiancé Nathaniel Holmes, 63, of Temple Hills, Maryland were found dead in their room at the Bahia Principe hotel
Miranda Schaup Werner collapsed on May 25 and died in her room after having a drink from the mini-bar at the all-inclusive Bahia Principe Hotel in La Romana. She's pictured left with her husband Dan. David Harrison, 45, right, of Maryland died of an alleged heart attack while vacationing with his wife, Dawn McCoy and their son at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana
Yvette Monique Sport, 51, left, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, also died after drinking from the minibar at the Bahia Principe resort, Sport's family members said. Robert Bell Wallace, 67,right, of California, became ill and died after he had a scotch from the room minibar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic