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Staten Island Woman Is Latest Tourist Death in Dominican Republic

Police are looking into the possibility of tainted booze
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2019 1:44 PM CDT
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Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Preto_perola)

(Newser) – By last count, six tourists had died under mysterious circumstances in the Dominican Republic over the last year or so, and now there's a seventh and an eighth. NBC News reports 53-year-old Leyla Cox of Staten Island died earlier this week at Punta Cana's Excellence resort. The family of 78-year-old American Jerry Curran also recently revealed that he died at the Dreams hotel there in January. This follows the death of two tourists at the island's Hard Rock resort (one in July 2018, one this past April), the death of a Pennsylvania woman in May at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville, and the deaths of a Maryland couple and a Philly woman at the Grand Bahia Principe la Romana—two in May, one in June. Meanwhile, a Denver couple that vacationed on the island in June 2018 tell Contact7 they also became sick at the Grand Bahia Principe. Back in the US, doctors told them they likely had pesticide poisoning; they now have a $1 million suit against the resort.

At least three of the deaths have been tied to pulmonary edemas. Per the New York Post, cops and the FBI are looking into whether tainted alcohol may have played a role in any of the deaths, as some of the victims drank from their hotel mini-bars before falling ill. And, in what seems to be completely unrelated to the recent sicknesses, the family of a Florida surfer who went missing in the Dominican Republic in January 2016 is hoping that the current media attention on the illnesses, as well as on the shooting of ex-Red Sox star David Ortiz, will reinvigorate his case. Darryl Fornatora, then 45, was on vacation there with friend Matthew Rigby, but although Rigby came home, Fornatora didn't—and the family wonders if Rigby knows something. "It's in their best interests" to get to the bottom of all the incidents that have taken place there," Fornatora's mother told the New York Post this week. (Read more Dominican Republic stories.)

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