Ottawa residents worry about travel to the Dominican Republic as 9th American dies
Published Tuesday, June 18, 2019 4:11PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, June 18, 2019 6:42PM EDT
Some Canadians travelling to the Dominican Republic are seeking advice after several Americans have died at resorts there under mysterious circumstances.
A New Jersey man has become the ninth U.S. tourist to die in a year. Now the FBI is investigating. Dominican officials are calling the deaths unrelated and isolated.
That may be the case but some Ottawa residents say their Caribbean dream vacation is turning into a nightmare.
There has been another mysterious death on a tropical vacation to the Dominican Republic. 55-year-old Joseph Allen of New Jersey died last Thursday at the Terra Linda Resort.
“The maid opens the door, screams, slams the door,” said Allen’s brother, “and my brother is on the floor dead.”
Allen is now the 9th American to die under unusual circumstances within the last year, making Ottawa resident Dahlia Kurtz question whether she should cancel her trip.
Kurtz, who's a host on Newstalk 580 CFRA, says a vacation should be a time to relax, not stress.
“It's not how dangerous a place is, it's the level of safety,” said Kurtz, “and do I trust the Dominican government right now; do I trust the authorities in the Dominican Republic.”
Authorities maintain millions of tourists visit the island resort safely every year. The FBI is awaiting toxicology reports; many family members say their loved ones died after drinking from the hotel minibar, which is why Ottawa resident Garry Hogan wanted Health Canada to test the minibar liquor bottles he brought back from his trip to the Dominican in March.
“Luckily, I didn't drink any yet,” Hogan says, “After this, I don't know what to do with them, throw them away unless someone wants to test them to see.”
Americans travelling to the Dominican Republic have been warned to exercise a high degree of caution. Global Affairs Canada has issued a similar warning due to the high crime rate and a travel notice because of the Zika virus.
Global Affairs Canada says it isn't aware of any Canadians citizens affected at this time. In a statement, it said,
"We issue travel advice and recommendations about safety and security conditions to enable travellers to make their own informed decisions regarding destinations. The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. We encourage Canadians to regularly consult the Travel Advice and Advisories for the Dominican Republic for updated information, and to register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service at www.travel.gc.ca in order to receive the latest advice."
Travel agencies in Ottawa say interest in the Dominican Republic hasn't waned; it is still a popular destination.
Mario Naim is with Handa Travel, “I don't think it will affect people going to the Dominican Republic. We are booking every day between 15 and 20 people going there.We spoke to tour companies offering these packages,” added Naim, “and they’re telling us to tell clients to be very careful like any other destination, to be careful with what they drink, who they talk to, when they ask them where they are from. There are strange things happening there but they're going to find out who is doing this and why.”
Dahlia Kurtz could not get a refund on her trip to the Dominican Republic; she left Monday morning for Punta Cana.