FBI: Tourist deaths in Dominican Republic not caused by tainted alcohol

FBI: Tourist deaths in Dominican Republic not caused by tainted alcohol
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The FBI has determined that recent American tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic in May were not caused by poisoned alcohol, backing up local authorities' assertion that the deaths were from natural causes.

Toxicology tests were conducted in partnership with the Dominican Republic National Police for three incidents, including for Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, who died in the same hotel room in May.

"Toxicology test results to date have been provided by the FBI to Dominican authorities, and family members of the deceased have been informed," a State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. "The results of the additional, extensive toxicology testing completed to date have been consistent with the findings of local authorities. Our condolences and sympathy go out to the families during this difficult time. Methanol poisoning from tainted alcohol was ruled out by the FBI in these cases during the toxicology screening, and it was not the finding in any other cases of U.S. citizen deaths investigated by Dominican authorities."

Dominican authorities previously reported no evidence of foul play or violence and cited respiratory failure as the cause of death for the couple.

Another victim died in the same hotel days before, which Dominican authorities connected to respiratory failure, hemorrhaging and an enlarged heart, according to HuffPost.

The Dominican Republic became embroiled in controversy this summer after several American tourists died of unknown circumstances. Some victims drank alcohol before dying, prompting the theory that the alcohol was poisoned, according to the Times.

The State Department and Dominican authorities have maintained that the number of deaths of American tourists has not significantly increased since previous years. State Department figures obtained by BuzzFeed News found 10 people died while visiting the Dominican Republican in the first six months of this year. In 2018, there were 13 deaths, and in 2017, there were 17 deaths.

The lawyer for the couple's family, Steven Bullock, said their cases still deserve more investigation.

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"You had a couple that died of the same ailment at the same time, and they want to say that it’s natural causes,” Mr. Bullock said. “I think there’s something for us to continue to look into.”

Bullock told The Hill that the families had not received information about the deaths from the FBI or the Dominican Republic.

"The only information that has been received by the families is what is being reported in the media,"  he said in a statement. "Our investigation is continuing, and we will not have any further comment until we receive the results of our investigation."

The FBI said that its investigation will continue.

“In the interest of providing as thorough an investigation as possible in this challenging case, the FBI is testing for two additional toxins and will provide Dominican authorities with results when tests are complete,” FBI officials said in a statement .