Business Insider Edition

The Dominican Republic resort where tourists have been dying has a long history of vacationers contracting serious illnesses

Nicole Einbinder , Business Insider US
 Jun 12, 2019, 04:04 PM
The Dominican Republic.
  • A hotel chain in the Dominican Republic has been the site of three American tourists' deaths in recent months.
  • But the chain has a long history of tourist troubles.
  • In 2009, the Grand Bahia Principe chain was the center of a series of lawsuits relating to nearly 1,000 British tourists getting sick.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

Three American tourists have died in recent months while staying at the same hotel chain in the Dominican Republic. But their deaths speak to a long history of troubles at Dominican Republic resorts and hotels.

In late May, Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day of Maryland were found dead inside their room at the Bahia Principe hotel at the resort Playa Nueva Romana, five days after Miranda Schaup-Werner of Pennsylvania collapsed and died at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in San Pedro de Macoris.

Since then, others have come forward about falling ill at the resort chain, which has 14 hotels across the Dominican Republic, in addition to other properties in the Caribbean and Spain.

New York resident Awilda Montes told the New York Daily News that she became severely sick after drinking what she says was a bleach-filled soda in her minibar at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in October. The incident left her vomiting blood and with chemical burns in her mouth.

Coloradan Kaylynn Knull told The Denver Channel that she and her boyfriend Tom Schwander got sick while staying at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana in June 2018, alleging they were poisoned at the property. A doctor in the US later told the couple that they were likely exposed to pesticides, and they are now suing the hotel.

A more detailed autopsy of the three victims released last week by Dominican government officials found that they all experienced similar symptoms before their deaths, including internal hemorrhaging, pulmonary edema, and enlarged hearts. Official toxicology reports have yet to be released, and the resort said in a statement "to date, there are no indications of any correlation between these two unfortunate events."

"We disapprove of any speculation and conjecture on the possible causes of death and urge all to respect the families while the investigation is ongoing," the statement adds.

This isn't the first time that people have fallen ill while staying at these hotels

These hotels have a long history of health problems.

For instance, in 2007, the Daily Mail reported that British tourists were hospitalised while staying at the Bahia Principe hotel in Punta Cana. Law firm Irwin Mitchell told the publication at the time that they have represented clients involving problems with the hotel that "go back at least 10 years."

The firm represented nearly 1,000 British travelers in a class action lawsuits against the UK travel company Thomas Cook and its subsidiary, My Travel; as well as the travel company First Choice. The tourists alleged that they contracted Shigella, Giardia, Salmonella and E. Coli while staying at what had been sold to them as a luxury resort. According to the suit, 29 plaintiffs needed to be hospitalised following their visit.

According to Irwin Mitchell, the outbreak was so severe that one plane returning to the UK with tourists from the hotels needed to be quarantined at Gatwick Airport before guests were allowed off.

"It beggars belief to think that so many people can fall ill at one hotel without the issue being resolved and it's a shocking example of how not to treat your customers," Clive Garner, a lawyer with Irwin Mitchell, told the Daily Mail.

In 2009, the group was awarded £5.5 million (R103 million)

INSIDER has reached out to Irwin Mitchell for comment.

In another example, Norwich Evening News, an England-based publication, reported in 2010 that a local man became severely ill with salmonella and amoebic dysentery while on vacation at Gran Bahia Principe Hotel in Cayacoa. After discovering that they were not the first tourists to get sick at the hotel, they filed a lawsuit against their travel agents, TUI UK, and successfully received compensation.

"I just had to take legal action because when you stay in a four or five star hotel, you don't expect to end up in hospital with food poisoning and my once in a lifetime experience will always be remembered for the wrong reasons," Francis Mayes told the publication.

And in 2014, London resident Mark Bidwell won a £20,000 (R295,000) settlement from travel agency Thomas Cook after his 2009 trip to the Dominican Republic was ruined by illness. Bidwell and his wife stayed at the Bahia Principe Hotel in San Juan and he came down with a severe gastric illness.

"I regret ever staying at the hotel. It was a terrible experience for us and I am still suffering the consequences today as I am still experiencing ongoing symptoms," he said in a 2014 interview with Caribbean 360.

In a statement to INSIDER, Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts said "we reiterate our firm commitment to collaborating completely with the authorities and hope for a prompt resolution of their inquiries and actions and will not be making any further statements that may interfere with them."

"The safety and comfort of our guests and staff stand at the core of our company values, and we work daily to ensure it," the statement added.

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