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Dominican Republic Tourist Deaths: New Jersey Man Becomes 8th American Case In Last Year

AVENEL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey man is now at least the eighth American to die while visiting the Dominican Republic in the last year.

Joseph Allen, 55, of Avenel, was found dead last Thursday inside his room at Terra Linda Resort in Sosua.

MORE: Staten Island Mother Becomes The Latest Person To Mysteriously Die In The Dominican Republic

Allen was there with friends who said he complained about being hot at the pool before going to shower and lie down, CBS News reports. His body was discovered the next day.

His cause of death has yet to be released.

Family members said he was in good health and traveled to the DR often. Longtime neighbors say Allen lived with his son.

Allen's family is trying to get his body home.

MORE: New York Woman Vomited Blood After Drink At Dominican Republic Resort Where 3 Americans Died

At least seven other Americans have died in the Dominican Republic in the last 12 months. Local autopsies found most died of respiratory problems or a heart attack.

"The real way to get to the answer is to compare and contrast all the people who died to see if there's a common factor," said Dr. Reynold Panettieri, a toxicologist and lung specialist.

Panettieri, the vice chancellor for Translational Medicine and Science at Rutgers University, says what's suspicious about some of these deaths is that there are multiple otherwise healthy people with no pre-existing conditions dying all of a sudden.

"Pulmonary edema is secondary to something. It's simply a constellation of fluid collecting in lung. There's cause for that. It doesn't just happen ... out of the blue," he said. "That speaks to a point of wonder if there's a toxicant exposure."

He says simple toxicology tests may not provide the answers here, such as if poisons or pesticides were involved.

"It doesn't give you some of the other causes -- arsenic ... things that would be typically, could cause flooding of the lungs or pulmonary edema," Panettieri said.

Panettieri says a secondary screen for toxicants would need to be ordered using sophisticated, sensitive machines, which can take weeks and cost a lot of money.

Toxicology reports from the FBI have not yet been released for the three deaths that occurred in May.

Staten Island mother Leyla Cox was on a solo birthday trip when she passed away last week. Her son told CBS2 the U.S. Embassy in the DR called and told him she died of a heart attack, but he said he did "not believe it was of natural causes."

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo says at this point, there is no proof the deaths are linked. Health officials say heart attack are the most common cause of death for Americans on vacation.

List Of Recent American Deaths In The Dominican Republic

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