June 11, 2019 – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

On May 30, 2019, Nathaniel Holmes age 63 and Cynthia Day age 50 were found dead in their room after missing checkout at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana in the Dominican Republic. This comes on the heels of Miranda Schaup-Werner age 41, dying on May 25th while a guest at the Luxury Bahis Principe Bouganville a sister resort on the same property where Mr. Holmes and Ms. Day were staying.

According to her husband who was with her at the resort celebrating their anniversary, Miranda Schaup-Werner became violently ill, collapsed and died after having a drink from the in-room mini-bar. Authorities maintain that Ms. Schaup-Werner died of a heart attack. There was no mention of a toxicology report.

All three deaths were classified as not suspicious by authorities in the Dominican Republic. The listed cause of death for Mr. Holmes and Ms. Day was respiratory failure and pulmonary edema. The results of a toxicology report are still pending. The listed cause of death for Ms. Schaup-Werner was respiratory failure from a heart attack. All three were considered relatively healthy, although that does not rule out a natural death.

Mr. Holmes and Ms. Day dying together in the same room with the same cause of death does add an element of suspicion and mystery. Friends and family say that over the course of their 5 days stay in the Dominican Republic they were happy, enjoying their stay while sharing photos of activities, the beach, and dinner with friends the evening before their deaths.

Pool Shots Dominican Republic Resort
Shots from the bottle during a pool party at a resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

The stories of the three sudden deaths of relatively young healthy victims at all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic has caused others with similar tales to speak out. Upon reading the stories of the three recent deaths at Dominican Republic resorts, Chole Arnold spoke to Fox News about a similar incident involving the death of her uncle, who was from California, Robert Bell Wallace, age 67. Mr. Wallace was staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana while attending the wedding of his stepson.

According to Ms. Arnold, her uncle Robert Bell became almost immediately ill after having a scotch from the in-room mini bar. She told Fox News, “He and his wife arrived there at around midnight on April 10. On April 11 he had scotch from the minibar. He started feeling very sick, he had blood in his urine and stool right afterward.”

Mr. Bell was treated in his room by a hotel doctor who on April 13, 2019, decided that he needed to be hospitalized. Robert Bell Wallace died in the hospital on April 14th. According to Chole Arnold, the family has not seen an official cause of death from the hospital or authorities of the Dominican Republic.

A Maryland widow, Dawn McCoy told her story concerning the death of her husband, David Harrison while staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. David Harrison, his wife, and 12-year-old son were in the Dominican Republic for an anniversary celebration. After seeing the recent spate of stories about deaths at the resorts, Ms. McCoy now wonders if she was too willing to accept her husband’s cause of death as “natural”. In an autopsy report obtained by The Post, the cause of death for David Harrison was listed as pulmonary edema.

On the afternoon of July 13, 2018, he was sitting at the pool with his wife and child when he began not feeling well. McCoy relates that he decided to return to the room for rest. She said he seemed to be feeling better after a nap. Later that night the 45-year-old David Harrison woke up soaked in sweat with a pungent body odor.

Liquor Bottles Beach Bar DR
Beach Bar with Imported Liquor bottles on display at an All-inclusive Hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Early the next morning as he struggled to get out of bed, Dawn McCoy says her husband couldn’t talk, was mumbling and continued to exude sweat with a strong odor. She called for help. By the time assistance reached the room, Mr. Harrison had died. The death certificate issued by the U.S. Government stated that the cause of death was “natural, non-violent”. His body was flown back to the US for cremation.

She now regrets that she so easily accepted the listed cause of death of David Harrison. Ms. McCoy told The Post, “I accepted it. Then, when all these people started passing, I stopped and thought to myself, How can all these people have the same cause of death as David? What is missing? What am I missing here?’ … I am a fighter and I accepted his death for what they said it was. Now, I’m sorry that I accepted it.”

In retelling her story Dawn McCoy does not mention if David was drinking alcohol at the pool, from the room mini-bar or if he consumed alcohol at all. Still talking to The Post, she said, “I just want answers,” she said, noting that she isn’t seeking monetary compensation. “I think it’s pointless at this point to even look into a lawsuit. It’s not going to bring him home.” There was not a toxicology report for Mr. Harrison.

As the story of the unusual pattern of death by vacationing US citizens gains readers and viewers, more people are going public with their stories.

Felicia Nieves recently told Fox 29 in Philadelphia of a similar incident concerning her 51-year-old sister, Yvette Monique Sport. In June of 2018, while staying at the Bahia Principe resort in Punta Cana, she collapsed and died. Her official cause of death according to Dominican Republic Authorities was a heart attack.

Ms. Nieves told Fox 29, “She was 51 years of age, relatively healthy, no reason for her to go on vacation and die so suddenly, it makes me question at this point is this cause of death even true

This is a fluid story with personal experiences being recounted around the web. A couple from Colorado told their story about being poisoned by pesticides while guests at the resort. Another woman from New York told of drinking from a bottle of 7-Up from the mini bar that tasted like bleach. It caused her mouth to bleed. She immediately returned to the US. The website iwaspoisoned.com has over 70 postings by tourists who were sickened by what they believe to be food poisoning while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.

Deaths at Dominican Republic All-Inclusive #Resorts are they related to Counterfeit and Fake Alcohol? #SafeProof Click to Tweet

The U.S. State Department, FBI and CDC have been invited to participate in the investigations. The Dominican Republic authorities including their minister of tourism have pushed back on the negative press saying that the deaths are coincidental. He told reporters, “Sometimes in life there can be a law of sequences, Sometimes, nothing may happen to you in a year. But in another week, three things might happen to you.

The resort administrations have taken a two-pronged approach with some remaining silent with others aggressively challenging any reporting that implies that these deaths are anything other than natural.

After the death of 20-year-old Abbey Conner in Mexico from tainted alcohol, the response was the same from government and resort authorities there. The Mexican Government denied that Mexico had a fake alcohol problem. When stories from other tourists and families of those who died in suspicious non-violent circumstances after consuming alcohol at the all-inclusive resorts poured into the press, the Mexican government acted. In a raid on the resorts, the Mexican government claimed to have seized 10,000 gallons of tainted, fake, mislabeled alcohol. Months later after never revealing the results of tests on the confiscated alcohol, the Mexican Secretary of Tourism was sent on a mission to the US to say all is well, and the deaths were the result of binge drinking by Americans. The resorts denied any wrongdoing after the government claimed to have confiscated 10,000 gallons of tainted liquor.

Dominican Republic Resort Deaths
Resorts like this one in the Dominican Republic attract visitors with All-Inclusive packages

Although no one, any agency or resort has intimated that the recent spate of deaths in the Dominican Republic were caused by fake alcohol or methanol poisoning, the symptoms and causes of death cannot be overlooked. Methanol is a common component of fake alcohol. Alcohol counterfeiters around the world use methanol to cheaply imitate name brand liquors.

Those poisoned with methanol exhibit an array of symptoms including blood in the urine as is the case with Mr. Wallace, incoherency as is the case with Mr. Harrison. The most prevalent cause of death is congestive heart failure with respiratory failure and pulmonary edema, as is the case with Mr. Holmes, Ms. Day, Ms. Schaup-Werner, Mr. Wallace, Mr. Harrison and Ms. Sport.

In this day of social media, you don’t have to look far to find firsthand accounts by people who have been posting for years that they suspect they were served fake alcohol in the Dominican Republic. Just Google. “Fake Alcohol in Dominican Republic” to read reviews from people around the world.

Authentic or Fake Liquor
Floating bar – Is the liquor authentic or counterfeit?

Snippets of a sampling of reviews posted by people on tripadvisor who believe they were served fake alcohol at the resorts of the Dominican Republic include:

R-n-R Seeker – Boston, Massachusetts Review of Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa Reviewed February 17, 2015 At 5 separate bars at Dreams I found Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray Gin bottles displayed top shelf, had some foul tasting/smelling liquid. I did not accept those drinks. I could immediately notice the difference because I have enjoyed these top-quality brands for many years over my lifetime. I complained to the bar tenders and asked to smell/taste the straight content from those bottles in a clean glass all alone (no ice, no tonic water, no lime etc.). I confirmed that foul smell and taste was there – not the real Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray” 

edjr99 Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Review of Majestic Elegance Punta Cana – Reviewed June 17, 2018 only complaint that I have and really not happy at all is some issues that we have had with tree he alcohol, specifically yesterday (friday) at the sports bar I asked for a Chivas, jack and crown royal and none of drinks were what I had asked, same thing happened to another member of my party at the beach he asked for a jack on the rocks and it wasn’t jack. This is very disturbing that from what it looks that you guys are actually mixing or replacing the content of the bottles for something else.

Along with hundreds of similar reviews from the guests who stayed at the resorts in the Dominican Republic, there are many complaints from people that blame sicknesses on the food. The question becomes how many who believe they were sick from food poisoning were drinking alcohol before, during or after their meals.

Although the FBI and CDC are joining the investigations, the past can not be recreated. Just as the Mexican resorts cleaned up their bars, restaurants and night clubs when the spotlight hit during the Abbey Conner stories, you can be sure that the same will happen in the Dominican Republic.

Dominican Republic Bar
Pool Party at a Punta Cana resort in DR

To help reconstruct the puzzle pieces, SafeProof.org is asking our readers who have had firsthand experiences at the resorts of the Dominican Republic to share your stories on the SafeProof tip line. If you got sick, think about if you drank alcohol, if so, how much? Did you drink from the in-room mini bar? Did the liquor taste “right”? Did it have a chemical smell? Was it stronger than you expected? Were you immediately nauseous? Did you experience any vision, reasoning or speaking problems? If you got “drunk”, was the hangover more intense than any that you have ever experienced?

SafeProof would like to hear all stories concerning alcohol at the resorts of the Dominican Republic. You can send your story anonymously. If you would like to include your name and contact information, please tell us if you would be willing to be interviewed by a SafeProof Administrator or Writer. Contact SafeProof with your story.

The mission of SafeProof.org is to raise awareness for Fake or Counterfeit alcohol and to keep liquor safe Search liquor enforcement using our map to keep you and your drinks safe. Report any illicit alcohol activity to us using our secure form or by calling 1 (833) SAFE-TIP To get the latest Alcohol Alerts and violation updates in your area Sign-up for SafeProof.org emails and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @SafeProof #DrinkSafe

Leave a Reply

  1. Carlos

    This is probably a combination of 3rd world $ saving tactics or maybe even a serial killer, especially in the La Romana cases. Americans should avoid visiting the D.R., they simply lack the political will to control their rampant crime, provide security for tourists, and there’s no legal recourse to be feared on their part. It’s a nation that was once fairly safe but no longer. There’s too much political and law enforcement corruption and when you add to that a massive income disparity, it’s a prefect storm for tragic consequences. No one should believe a word the Dominican authorities say about any of these deaths, it’s purely CYA and their bottom line. They deserve to lose all tourist revenue, it may be the only way these resorts take the much needed measures to ensure safety that they’ve long ignored with total impunity. As for the American woman who was severely beaten in Punta Cana, her husband was an idiot to let her leave their room at that hour, by herself. That’s very irresponsible in any hotel in any nation!

    1. Dominican

      Hola Carlos,
      Y dime qué has ganado tú con este comentario?

      Te pagarán en dólares o en peso?

      1. SafeProof Listing Owner

        He is helping other consumers stay safe while raising awareness for potential counterfeit liquor. So we thank him!

        Your website is for the tourism board. Do you work for the Dominican Republic Tourism board? If so we would appreciate an interview with one of our writers.

      2. K. Baby

        Please, please, please make public the results of your alcohol tests Safeproof! This is important information. Imo, there is no way that all of those people died from heart attack/pulmonary edema coincidentally. That is pure rubbish. I wholeheartedly agree with Carlos’ comment!!!

  2. Mark

    I have a sealed bottle of Johnny Walker from my Punta Cana resort mini bar that I’d be willing to send in to have tested if possible.

    1. SafeProof Listing Owner

      Mark thank you! We will contact you on Monday and make arrangements. It will be very helpful for us to test the alcohol levels and to analyze the bottle to verify its authenticity using our liquid fingerprint technology. We greatly appreciate your offer.

      If anyone else has bottles please get in touch with SafeProof using our tip phone line 1 833 SAFE-TIP, Contact Us page or Report a tip page.

  3. Corinne

    Hi. I am going there in two weeks. I will grab random mini bar samples for you