The FBI has ruled that the deaths of three Americans in the Dominican Republic last May were not caused by poisoned alcohol but rather were from natural causes, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department released on Friday.
“The toxicology findings from the FBI were able to rule out several potential causes of …including methanol poisoning from tainted alcohol,” a State Department spokesperson told Travel Market Report in an email. “The laboratory in Quantico and investigators in the Dominican Republic conducted thorough and time-consuming efforts, and none of the chemicals identified as possible toxins were found.”
The findings from the FBI are consistent with what local Dominican authorities have found, according to the spokesperson. Two of the deaths were not a result of “physical violence or foul play,” the spokesperson said, while one was determined to be a “heart attack” with no linkage between the deaths, the spokesperson said.
“The safety of U.S. citizens in the Dominican Republic is a top priority for the U.S. government and the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo,” the spokesperson said, adding that the State Department “will continue to work with all of our Dominican counterparts in the tourism, law enforcement, and health sectors to assess and inform the public about safety risks in the Dominican Republic.”
The deaths, and the reporting in the media, had plagued the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry over the last year.
The country’s Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia and the rest of the DR’s tourism department kept reassuring travelers that there was no issue and the country was safe despite the sensationalist headlines. Garcia told advisors attending Apple Leisure Group’s Ascend Conference in Chicago last month that the coverage of the deaths were “attacks” that could “happen tomorrow at any other destination” in the world.
“What you’re absolutely sure of, when you speak to a client who has doubts about going to the DR, when you tell them that it’s safe, you are speaking the truth,” he said. “Nothing has changed. The Dominican Republic is still the same place you all know.”
Despite all the negative coverage, the country was never given more than a Level 2 warning from the U.S. state Department, which says that travelers should “exercise increased caution.” That was the same warning level as Spain, France, Denmark, and Belgium.
The deaths, despite the headlines, were also not out of the ordinary for the Dominican Republic. According to the State Department, 17 tourists died in the Dominican Republic in 2017, 13 in 2018, and 10 in 2019 up until June.