Dozens of members of a Jimmy Buffet fan club from Oklahoma reportedly fell ill during a trip in April to the Dominican Republic – where at least seven American tourists have died under mysterious circumstances.
One of the Buffet fans, Dana Flowers, says he got so sick that he lost 14 pounds and was unable to leave his room at the Hotel Riu Palace Macao in Punta Cana.
Flowers, a local travel agent from Oklahoma City, traveled to Punta Cana as part of the Central Oklahoma Parrothead Association, a group of Buffet fanatics from the Tulsa and Oklahoma City region.
‘Four or five days we were having a good time but then by the middle of the week people were beginning to get sick,’ he told KFOR-TV.
Dana Flowers, a travel agent from Oklahoma City, says he and a large group of fellow Jimmy Buffet fans got sick during a vacation to the Dominican Republic in April
Flowers traveled to Punta Cana with the Central Oklahoma Parrothead Association, a group of Buffet fanatics from the Tulsa and Oklahoma City region
The group stayed at the Hotel Riu Palaca Macao in Punta Cana (seen in the above stock image)
‘Out of those 114 people, 47 got sick there.’
Flowers said another member of their entourage died after going to another hotel.
At the time, however, nobody knew that it was the beginning of a rash of strange incidents involving American tourists.
“We had no idea when we were there that all this was going on,” Flowers said.
He said that local doctors believed it might be a parasite. Although Flowers tested negative for salmonella, others in the group tested positive.
He believes that people in the group got sick either from something they drank at the swim-up pool bar or from swimming in the pool.
Flowers says he’s just thankful that nobody died.
‘I will not be going back to the Dominican any time soon,’ he said.
Flowers’ story is similar to the one told by a newlywed couple.
The bride and groom say that earlier this month they both fell violently ill after their wedding day at a Dominican Republic resort where two other Americans died in mysterious circumstances, forcing them to cut short their honeymoon.
Claudia Massaranduba and fiance Kevin Gentile, who live in the Boston area, were staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana when the began to suffer from vomiting and diarrhea.
The newlyweds, believed to have tied the knot earlier this month, told The New York Post that several members of their family also fell ill during the celebrations.
According to Flowers, 47 of the 114 people in his travel group got sick during the vacation
Flowers said he was so sick that he lost 14 pounds and was unable to leave his room
Flowers believes that guests got sick either from drinks at the swim-up pool bar or by swimming in the pool
He said that local doctors believed it might be a parasite. Although Flowers tested negative for salmonella, others in the group tested positive
Two other Americans, David Harrison and Robert Bell Wallace, have died at the resort in the last year.
A total of seven US holidaymakers have died in mysterious circumstances while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
Claudia said Kevin was ill on morning of their big day: ‘It was scary. He had a fever, chills and we were more concerned about getting fluids into him than the wedding.’
Claudia claims her bridesmaid and her 10-year-old nephew also fell ill and were charged hundreds of dollars to visit the resort’s clinic before being referred to a local hospital.
She says her guests were among dozens of other guests at the hotel who were getting sick that same week.
She added: ‘The doctor was very concerned about how she was going to be paid. I asked her if she was going to do anything for my husband besides look at him and tell him to go to the hospital.
‘People at the hotel were not surprised at all by our experience, which I thought was strange. That’s why when I went to the doctor it seemed like a business.’
Claudia herself says she then fell ill and she later discovered that other members of her family, including elderly relatives, were also sick but had not wanted to spoil the couple’s wedding.
The couple were then forced to cut short their honeymoon.
‘Our plan was to spend our honeymoon at the resort and instead we left a day early,’ Claudia said.
Claudia Massaranduba and fiance Kevin Gentile were staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana when the began to suffer from vomiting and diarrhea
She added: ‘The hardest part was that a big part of our wedding was having the family together and that got taken away from us. Instead I was stuck in our room with my husband getting sick.’
Leyla Cox, 53, of New Brighton became the seventh American in last year to die in mysterious circumstances in Dominican Republic after she was found dead in her hotel room on Monday. 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.
Claudia herself says she then fell ill and she later discovered that other members of her family, including elderly relatives, were also sick but had not wanted to spoil the couple’s wedding. The couple were then forced to cut short their honeymoon
Claudia, pictured with Kevin, claims her bridesmaid and her nephew also fell ill and were charged hundreds of dollars to visit the resort’s clinic before being referred to a local hospital
Two other Americans, David Harrison and Robert Bell Wallace, have died at the at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, pictured, in the last year
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.
‘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 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
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
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.
Authorities believe the deaths may have been caused by bootleg booze
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.
‘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.
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’.
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.
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
FBI officials say they’re now investigating the seven deaths of seemingly healthy Americans who died suddenly at one of two resorts in the last 12 months
‘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.com has contacted the resort for comment.
TIMELINE: American tourists who mysteriously died or were struck down with illnesses in the Dominican Republic
June 2018: Yvette Monique Sport, 51, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, dies after drinking from the minibar at at a Bahia Principe hotel in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Family said the previously healthy Sport had the drink, went to sleep and never woke up.
June 2018: Kaylynn Knull, 29, and Tom Schwander, 33, woke up in their hotel room at the Grand Bahia Principe with a pounding headache. They returned to the room later in the day, to find a ‘chemical smell’. The couple changed their flights and flew home early.
July 2018: David Harrison dies while on vacation at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana to celebrate his wedding anniversary. He woke up struggling to breathe and covered in sweat. He died that same day. His widow said he’d visited the doctor before the trip who’d given him a clean bill of health.
October 2018: Awilda Montes, 43, of New York, claims she drank a bottle of soda from the minibar at the Grand Bahia Principe resort in La Romana that ‘turned out to be bleach.’ She survived but suffered chemical burns.
April 2019: Dozens of people traveling with a Jimmy Buffet fan group from Oklahoma falls ill at the Hotel Riu Palace Macao in Punta Cana.
April 10, 2019 : Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California, became ill almost immediately after drinking an alcoholic beverage from his in-room minibar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana – the same hotel as Harrison.
April 14: Wallace dies in hospital four days after falling ill.
May 25: Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Pennsylvannia, dies within hours of consuming a drink from a resort minibar across the island at Bahia Principe Hotel in La Romana.
May 25: Cynthia Day, 49, and Nathaniel Holmes, 63, of Maryland, check into the Bahia Principe Hotel, La Romana.
May 30: Day and Holmes are found dead in their rooms.
June 10: Leyla Cox, 53, of Staten Island, New York, is found dead in her hotel room. The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo informed her family that she died of a heart attack, but her son, William Cox, says he is suspicious.
The Bahia Principe Resorts and Hotels tweeted to say: ‘The safety and comfort of our guests and staff stand at the core of our company values and we work daily to insure it.
‘All our properties in the Dominican Republic hold some of the most prestigious certifications in the industry including Travelife certifications at the Gold level, as well as a Global Reputation Index (GRI) of 90 percent.’
In a statement a spokesman for the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana told the DailyMail.com: ‘Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana is deeply saddened by these two unfortunate incidents, and we extend our sincerest sympathy to the families of Mr. Harrison and Mr. Wallace.
‘We are currently waiting for official reports regarding these deaths, which occurred in July of 2018 and April of 2019 respectively.
‘We can assure you, the safety and health of our guests is now, and has always been our highest priority. 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.’
Authorities in the Dominican Republic had said last week the deaths of a Pennsylvania psychotherapist and an American couple five days later at the same resort appear to be unrelated incidents.
The resort released this statement saying it is ‘deeply saddened’ by the couple’s deaths
Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California became ill almost immediately after drinking an alcoholic beverage from his in-room minibar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana on April 10, and died on April 14 after being hospitalized, Fox News reported.
Pennsylvania’s Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, also died after consuming a drink from a resort minibar across the island at Bahia Principe Hotel in La Romana on May 25.
Five days later, Maryland couple Cynthia Day, 49, and Nathaniel Holmes, 63, were found dead in their rooms on May 30 at the same resort, though staying in an adjacent sister hotel.
One year ago, Yvette Monique Sport, 51, of Glenside, Pennsylvania, also died after drinking from the minibar at that resort, Sport’s family members told Fox 29.
In July 2018, David Harrison, 45, of Maryland died of an alleged heart attack while vacationing with his wife and their son at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana, which his widow now calls into question given the other recent deaths.