06.30.19

SCHUMER: SPATE OF SICKNESSES & CURIOUS DEATHS OF AMERICANS, INCLUDING NEW YORKERS, VACATIONING IN DOMINICAN REPUBLIC DEMANDS MORE FED HELP & EXPERTISE TO GET FASTER ANSWERS ON POSSIBLE CAUSE; SENATOR URGES ATF & MORE CDC TO JOIN FBI WITH ONGOING INVESTIGATION INTO POSSIBLY TAINTED ALCOHOL, OTHER THEORIES

ATF Has A Special Caribbean Office & Special Expertise With Their International Affairs Division That Can Help Gather Answers On Mysterious Sicknesses & Deaths More Swiftly; Questions Swirl Around Possibly Tainted Alcohol At Resorts, Or Use Of Certain Chemicals To Control Pests

With 9 American Deaths Since April – Including NY’ers – And Dozens Of Tourists Sickened, Schumer Says ATF & More CDC Experts Can Lend Critical Expertise On Possible Theories

Schumer: More Questions Than Answers On Sudden DR Deaths Demands More Fed Action To Get To The Bottom

Amidst more questions than answers on a spate of sicknesses and curious deaths of Americans, including New Yorkers vacationing in the Dominican Republic, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is demanding more fed help and expertise to follow more clues and gather faster answers into a possible cause or causes. Schumer is formally requesting the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), which has a Caribbean office, get involved and lend critical expertise on at least one possible theory: tainted alcohol. Schumer also wants the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to send more of their experts down as part of his push to expedite the overall investigation into these mysterious illnesses and deaths.  

“Given that we still have a whole lot of questions and very few answers into just what, if anything, is the cause for the recent spate of sicknesses and several deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic, the feds should double their efforts on helping get to the bottom of things,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “One way to lend critical expertise, especially as it relates to the possible theory of illegal liquor, is to include the ATF in the investigation. With an established Caribbean office and a keen ability to work internationally, the agency is poised to assist the FBI with the questions around possibly-tainted alcohol and any related criminal activity. And when it comes to the swirling questions on the use of certain chemicals, possibly linked to pesticides, the CDC should send down more folks who specialize in this kind of fact-finding."

The Dominican Republic hosts 2.5 million Americans annually, and in the past year, at least eleven people have tragically died while vacationing at resorts on the island, with the most recent death of a Colorado man just this past week. Three of the victims were New Yorkers: Donette Edge Cannon of Queens, Leyla Cox of Staten Island, and Vittorio Caruso of Glen Cove. These deaths, which have amounted to nearly a dozen, are very similar in manner. Many of the people were said to experience a heart attack or shortness of breath after consuming alcohol before succumbing to their illness. There has been little to no clarity surrounding these incidents, mainly because toxicology reports have yet to be released, but Schumer says the feds are only assisting with three of those toxicology investigations, and that more can be done to help get to the bottom of these recent health-related mysteries.

Other vacationers have reported noxious smells in their hotel rooms, to which some attribute to the use of pesticides, as cause for their initial health complications. Schumer says the CDC can help in the case of this possible theory, too, dispatching experts and sharing key knowledge with Island investigators.  

“Simply put, the sooner we get to the bottom of what is happening, the sooner we can be part of an appropriate response, but the first priority is for the feds to help get all the answers in hand, a timely and thorough investigation. And that is where the feds can help better expedite this process for everyone,” Schumer added.

The ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is an integral force in detecting and investigating cases in which trafficking illicit alcohol involves criminal enterprises or leads to foul play. The ATF can work in tandem with the FBI, who has been assisting local authorities with investigations into toxicology reports since early June, to help gather answers or provide support. In the case of many who passed away, symptoms point to methanol poisoning as a potential cause for their untimely passing. Methanol is a toxic, synthetic chemical normally used in antifreeze that’s also used, illegally, to make counterfeit alcohol. Consuming even a small amount of pure methanol can lead to pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs, and respiratory distress — two of the official causes of death listed for two of the victims in these resort deaths.

The ATF has two offices in the Caribbean, one in Jamaica and another in the Bahamas, and can provide its technical assistance, intelligence sharing, and forensic expertise to both the FBI and the Dominican Republic government to help pinpoint what, if anything is awry, and communicate with the larger international community.

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