Authorities eyeing bootleg liquor as potential cause of DR tourist deaths

Authorities eyeing bootleg liquor as potential cause of DR tourist deaths


 Cops are investigating whether at least seven tourists who mysteriously died in the Dominican Republic were poisoned by counterfeit booze, The Post has learned
 Officials want to know who supplied the alcoholic beverages the victims drank in the minutes and hours before their deaths over the past year — and if the drinks had any dangerous chemicals in them, law enforcement sources said
 The FBI is assisting and will take blood samples from the dead back to its research center in Quantico, Va
, a source said.  The Dominican government insists the fatalities are isolated incidents, while reps for both of the resorts where victims have died — the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Bahia Principe — described the deaths as simple accidents
 But most of the deaths bear similarities, as they involve apparently healthy adults — at least some of whom drank from their hotel room minibar before suddenly becoming gravely sick
 Five American tourists have died in mysterious circumstances on the island this year, while the family of two others who died in 2018 say they now suspect their loved ones met foul play
see also The eerie similarities surrounding tourist deaths in Dominican Republic A sixth American tourist was reported Monday to have died
 Others have reported falling ill, but surviving, after drinking from their minibars
 A Post reporter at one of the resorts noted the vodka in the room had a strange, potent smell resembling pure alcohol
 Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said the symptoms among some of the dead — including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea — were consistent with poisoning from methanol or pesticides
 Methanol is a type of alcohol not safe for humans. It is regularly used as antifreeze
 “Adulterated alcohol is usually methanol added to alcohol or just plain methanol, which is very, very toxic,” Kobilinsky said
 “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
”  Health inspectors from multiple agencies conducted extensive tests on the pool, air conditioning units, food areas and alcohol at two Bahia Principe resorts where three visitors died, said the Dominican Ministry of Public Health
They are waiting for the results.  “There should be no methanol at all” in the liquor, Kobilinsky said
“If it’s there, it means it’s been adulterated or put there deliberately.”  In 2017, Dominican National Police dismantled five labs used for the manufacture of alcohol not safe for human consumption
 But Hard Rock bartender Angel Santana, 43, said contamination claims were “not possible
”  “I have been working here for nine years, and everything here has always been very safe,” he said
 In a statement, the Hard Rock said clinical tests from Hospiten Bavaro, a hospital in Punta Cana, showed both deaths at its resort were caused by heart attacks
 The hotel also said it buys only “unopened products from licensed and reputable vendors
” see also Staten Island woman is latest to mysteriously die in Dominican Republic A Staten Island woman became the latest tourist to mysteriously
 The first suspicious death at the Hard Rock came in July 2018, when American tourist David Harrison, 45, fell ill in his room and died
On April 14, Robert Bell Wallace, 67, also died there.  On May 25, Miranda Schaupp-Werner, 41, of Pennsylvania, died after drinking from the minibar of her room at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville resort
 Five days later, Maryland couple Nathaniel Edward Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49 were found dead in their room at the neighboring Grand Bahia Principe
 Yvette Monique Short, of Philadelphia, died in June 2018 after drinking from her minibar at the resort
 The family of a seventh person, Leyla Cox of Staten Island, said on Thursday that she died mysteriously in her room during a trip last week
It was not clear where she was staying.

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