Topline: Denver resident Khalid Adkins died Wednesday while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, making him the ninth American tourist to die there since April, amid growing alarm over the spate of deaths.
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- After boarding a flight home Sunday, Adkins disembarked after vomiting in the bathroom, according to his sister. He was then hospitalized in Santo Domingo.
- Adkins’ family said they had difficulties communicating with Dominican doctors, who reportedly said his kidneys were failing and needed dialysis onsite—or back in the United States, which would have cost an estimated $20,000 for a helicopter flight. The Dominican consulate was working with the family to assist Adkins before he died, according to Denver news station KDVR.
- Dominican authorities, with some FBI assistance, are investigating some of the deaths. There’s been some speculation that poisoned or counterfeited liquor in hotel minibars and pesticide exposure may be the causes behind the deaths, but no conclusions have been reached.
- “Our FBI colleagues tell us that [toxicology] results may take up to 30 days. We ask everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course,” the U.S. embassy for the Dominican Republic said in a June 11 statement.
Key background: Similarities between some victims’ autopsy reports and symptoms prior to death raised questions about what’s actually happening in the Caribbean nation. Three victims reportedly had an alcoholic drink immediately prior to their deaths, prompting the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana (where two of those victims died) to remove the liquor dispensers from their minibars. More suspicious incidents, like the woman violently beaten at a resort and a group of high schoolers falling violently ill, are also unexplained. The overall picture convinced people to cancel upcoming trips; some 60% of the American Society of Travel Advisors reported Dominican vacation cancelations. Analysis of flight booking data showed a 45% spike in cancelations to the Caribbean nation.
Critical fact: The Dominican Republic is rated a two out of four on the U.S. State Department’s travel warning scale, last updated April 15. “Exercise increased caution due to crime. Violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide, and sexual assault is a concern throughout the Dominican Republic.” And Robin Bernstein, U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, said in a statement: “The safety and security of U.S. citizens that live in, work in, and visit the Dominican Republic remains our highest priority. These incidents are tragic and we offer our deepest condolences to those personally impacted.”