ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In about a year, at least six U.S. tourists died under strange circumstances in the Dominican Republic. Officials on the island nation and those at home still cannot quite figure out what exactly led to their deaths.
David Harrison, 45, died in July 2018 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino resort in Punta Cana, and authorities told his wife he died of a heart attack. The Maryland woman said she continues to be suspicious, especially following the deaths of several more people since.
"I didn't plan on coming back a widow," Dawn McCoy said through tears. "I wasn't prepared for what was coming my way."
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino told CBS News it was confident all operational protocols were followed.
The sister of 51-year-old Pennsylvania resident Yvette Monique Sport said she was a healthy woman, and there was no way she would die last summer from what authorities also said as a heart attack at a Bahia Principe resort.
Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day of Maryland most recently died at a Bahia Principe hotel during their vacation. So, too, did Pennsylvania woman Miranda Schaup-Werner in May. CBS News reports preliminary autopsies showed they all had fluid in their lungs and respiratory failure.
Robert Wallace, a California man, was in town for his stepson's wedding in April, CBS said. He died not long after drinking scotch from the Hard Rock resort's minibar and two months later, his family doesn't know the cause of death.
Bahia Principe has 27 properties in its portfolio in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Spain. Although the company says "the safety and comfort of our guests and staff stand at the core of our company values," it added "inaccurate and false information" about the deaths is being spread on social media and news reports -- and it reserves "the right to take the appropriate legal action" against those sharing it.
It might not be a surprise now that some travelers might be rethinking future plans to the Caribbean.
Travel insurance could be the answer, especially when it's purchased soon after booking the vacation. Consumer Reports says people whose itineraries cost more than a few thousand dollars might be better off purchasing a policy in addition to the trip itself.
Some companies offer what's known as "cancel for any reason" insurance, but it could cost about 40-percent more than basic insurance and only cover about 50-75 percent of total expenses. Plus, certain states might have their own regulations on this sort of protection.
New York, for example, limits or prohibits such sales, Consumer Reports noted.
CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg said people should worry more so about the "common sense factor" than the "fear factor." Travelers should ask resorts about what chemicals they're using to clean rooms and how the drink labels at the minibar match what's actually in the drink.
"When you look at the sheer number of people who are vacationing there, and then you look at the number of incidents, the numbers are overwhelming in your favor but that does not prevent you or shouldn't prevent you from asking some basic, common sense questions," he said.
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