NEW YORK (AP/CBSNewYork) — The Senate's top Democrat said Sunday that the U.S. government should step up efforts to investigate the deaths of at least eight Americans in the Dominican Republic this year.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives should lend support to the FBI and local law enforcement, said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., noting the agency has offices in the Caribbean and the technical and forensic expertise that could aid the investigation.
"Given that we still have a whole lot of questions and very few answers into just what, if anything, is 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," Schumer said in a statement.
Family members of the tourists who died have called on authorities to investigate any possible connections. Relatives have raised the possibility that the deaths may have been caused by adulterated alcohol or misused pesticides.
ATF spokeswoman April Langwell said the Treasury Department primarily handles investigations involving potentially tainted alcohol. But she said ATF has offered its assistance and would work with other law enforcement agencies to keep Americans safe.
The ATF primarily investigates firearms-related crimes but is also charged with regulating alcohol and tobacco.
Francisco Javier García, the tourism minister in the Dominican Republic, said earlier this month that the deaths were not part of any mysterious series of fatalities but a statistically normal phenomenon lumped together by the U.S. media. He said autopsies show the tourists died of natural causes.
Five of the autopsies were complete as of last week, while three were undergoing further toxicological analysis with the help from the FBI because of the circumstances of the deaths.
List Of Recent American Deaths In The Dominican Republic
- June 17, 2019: Vittorio Caruso, 56, from Glen Cove, N.Y.
Died after "drinking something," cause of death not officially determined.
- June 13, 2019: Joseph Allen, 55, of Avenel, N.J.
Died at Terra Linda resort in Sosua, Dominican Republic. Cause of death yet to be officially determined.
- June 10, 2019: Leyla Cox, 53, of Staten Island, N.Y.
Died at the Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana. Cause of death in DR ruled a heart attack.
- May 30, 2019: Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, of Maryland.
Died at the Grand Bahia Principe in La Romana. DR officials ruled cause of death as respiratory failure, along with Cynthia Day.
- May 30, 2019: Cynthia Day, 49, of Maryland.
Died at the Grand Bahia Principe in La Romana. DR officials ruled cause of death as respiratory failure, along with Nathaniel Holmes.
- May 25, 2019: Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Allentown, Pa.
Died at the Bahia Principe resort in La Romana. Cause of death ruled heart attack and respiratory failure.
- March 27, 2019: Orlando Moore, 40, of Westchester County, N.Y.
Body recovered from the sea near San Souci on March 31, linked to a traffic crash on March 27 with Ravenelle.
- March 27, 2019: Portia Ravenelle, 52, of Westchester County, N.Y.
Found alive on highway in DR, later died of injuries at a hospital, linked to a traffic crash on March 27 with Moore.
- April 12, 2019: Robert Wallace, 67, of California.
Died at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana of a heart attack after being served a scotch at the bar.
- April 2019: John Corcoran of Turlock, California
Death in DR reported by CNN through his sister, "Shark Tank" star Barbara Corcoran.
- July 2018: David Harrison of Maryland.
Died at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana of a heart attack.
- June 2018: Yvette Monique Sport of Pennsylvania.
According to CNN reports, she died after drinking from her hotel room's mini-bar at the Bahia Principe in Punta Cana.
- May 2018: Donette Edge Cannon of Queens, N.Y.
Died at hospital of kidney failure after stay in Punta Cana.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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