Two more Americans — a man from Kansas and a woman from Pennsylvania — died during vacations in the Dominican Republic, amid a recent spate of tourist deaths in the country, according to a new report.
The families of Chris Palmer — a 41-year-old Army veteran from Kansas who died on April 18, 2018, and Barbara Diane Maser-Mitchell, a 69-year-old retired nurse from Pennsylvania who died on Sept. 17, 2016 — came forward to Fox News to report their deaths.
The State Department confirmed the deaths to the network Thursday.
Both Palmer and Maser-Mitchell died of heart attacks, according to official determinations by Dominican authorities, the report said.
Palmer was staying at the Villa Cocotal Palma resort in Punta Cana, according to Fox News. He’d been working at a Mexican resort and went to the Dominican Republic in hopes of selling timeshares and teaching scuba diving there, friends and family said.
He was a salesman and scuba diving instructor who loved traveling, his daughter, Meghan Palmer, told Fox.
In reports given to Palmer’s family, obtained by the outlet, Dominican authorities said that he had pulmonary edema. But those who knew him feared that wasn’t the whole story.
“As soon as he died, I wondered if he was poisoned, if he was drugged,” Bernadette Hiller, his one-time girlfriend who remained a close friend, told the network. “He was healthy as a horse.”
At some point during his stay, Palmer told his friends he had a bad headache, Palmer told the outlet.
He was found dead in his room after aspirating on his own vomit, Dominican authorities said, according to the report.
Like many others who whose relatives have recently died in the country, Palmer’s loved ones said they felt pressured to get his body cremated.
“We are devastated and are seeking answers,” Hiller told Fox. “This was so sudden and unexpected. This has been a nightmare for his family.”
Maser-Mitchell died during her stay at the Excellence resort in Punta Cana, where she celebrated her birthday with her son and his long-time companion, according to the report.
She started to feel sick on her second day there, after having cocktails, her son’s companion, Terry Mackey, told the outlet.
The next day, Maser-Mitchell wasn’t any better and decided not to join them for breakfast.
She drank in moderation — but never in excess, Mackey said.
“In the 15 years I knew her, she never suffered aftereffects,” Mackey told Fox.
The family contacted the resort doctor, who suggested the woman go to the hospital — which she at first declined, and then agreed to go. In the ambulance, she went into cardiac arrest.
“I was sitting in the ambulance with her, holding her hand the whole time,” Mackey told the outlet.
The woman’s corpse was in such bad shape when it arrived in the US that relatives couldn’t view her, according to Mackey. Dominican authorities had allegedly claimed that the body had not been properly preserved.
Before the trip, Maser-Mitchell went for a medical exam, where she was given the all-clear to go on vacation, Mackey added.
Maser-Mitchell was in generally good health, and it wasn’t clear if she drank anything from the room minibar, Mackey told the network.
“She was a [licensed practical nurse], she knew the symptoms of a heart attack, she would have known,” Mackey said. “She didn’t present symptoms of a heart attack.”
Dominican authorities are expected to hold a Friday press conference, in which they will detail final autopsy reports on the recent wave of deaths among US tourists in the country.
The resorts did not immediately return requests for comment.
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