Dominican Republic deaths: Hard Rock chairman, where two Americans died, blames illnesses on 'different drinking water'
The chairman of a hotel chain in the Dominican Republic has suggested that "different water" is to blame for Americans falling ill abroad, following the mysterious deaths of 13 tourists of the island – including two at his resort.
On Friday, Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen was speaking to CNBC's Squawk Box when he claimed that 'the reality is that when people travel abroad, people get sick simply many times by just drinking water'.
Two American tourists, David Harrison and Robert Bell Wallace, died at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana while on vacation. It started with 67-year-old Wallace, who fell ill almost immediately after he drank an alcoholic beverage from his in-room minibar at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana on April 10. He died on April 14 after being hospitalized.
When asked if alcohol could be to blame for the death of the men, he added, "I think its frankly its part of today's media cycle. The reality is that when people travel abroad people get sick simply many times by just drinking water that's different here than what we are used to in the United States. There have been seven deaths over the last year and a half and certainly, they will be investigated. We have to wait for the Dominican to come back with specifics on all of those unfortunate passings.'
His comments come just after it was revealed that the families of the departed plan to carry out their own autopsies. The families of Cynthia Ann Day and Nathaniel Edward Holmes, who were found dead in their hotel room at the Bahia Principe Hotel, La Romana on May 30, 'want to know the truth' their attorney said. Steven Bullock said, "They don't want investigations to be skewed. I'm not suggesting that would be the case, but they simply want to take no chances."
41-year-old Miranda Schaup-Werner died on May 25 after she had a drink from the minibar in the Bahia Principe Hotel in La Romana. Her family is also waiting for the results of an independent investigation in the United States, their attorney Joseph Cullen said.
Allen was speaking days after a Denver father became the 13th American tourist to die on the island within a year's time. 46-year-old Khalid Adkins had been vacationing with his daughter and was expected to fly back to the US on Sunday, but suffered a kidney failure before takeoff and had to be rushed to the hospital, where he died on Wednesday.
His death is another blow to the country's deteriorating reputation as a tourist paradise. Delta Air Lines even announced that it would let passengers book/cancel their flights to the Dominican Republic without any extra charges or penalties. In fact, market bookings are down in excess of 20 percent in the wake of the deaths.
"The market bookings are down in excess of 20 percent and certainly that's understandable. I think this is the classic case of how important it is to make sure accurate information is reported to the general public. But also it's one of the challenges of being in a country like the Dominican. Their ministry of tourism has come out, made some public statements last week. When you really study the numbers, and it's important to understand what numbers are factual and which ones are being exaggerated," he said.
"But clearly there is a concern to make sure that people are safe in any foreign country. We operate in 75 different countries, we definitely have seen an impact on bookings and we are hopeful we are able to move forward. Most importantly it does not appear that there is some individual that is deliberately poisoning people which was initially first reported," he added.
Amid a spate of unexplained illnesses on the island, 13 Americans have lost their lives when visiting the country of causes ranging from septic shock, pneumonia, heart failure, respiratory failure, and multi-organ failure.