When Dawn McCoy heard about the three recent deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic, she didn’t think her husband’s passing of oddly similar conditions a year earlier was “coincidental.”
In July 2018, David Harrison, McCoy’s husband, died of a heart attack, atherosclerosis and pulmonary edema — a condition in which the lungs become filled with fluid — at the age of 45, according to his death certificate. McCoy said he fell ill while staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana.
Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Allentown, Pa., died of a heart attack, pulmonary edema and respiratory failure at the Bahia Principe Bouganville resort, according to a release by the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic.
The early autopsy of Prince George’s County couple Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, revealed that Holmes had pulmonary edema, an enlarged heart, liver cirrhosis and internal hemorrhaging, and Day had pulmonary edema, cerebral edema — the presence of fluid in the brain — an enlarged heart and liver and internal hemorrhaging, the release read. They died in their room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana.
“This sent me into, like, a tailspin,” McCoy, of Brandywine, said, even though she and her husband had stayed at a different resort. “All of these people are dying from the same exact cause my husband did.”
In a string of recent events, now unfolding from as early as June 2018, people are speaking up about loved one who lost their lives in the Dominican Republic. McCoy decided to come forward with her husband’s story.
On the afternoon before Harrison’s death, McCoy said her husband wasn’t feeling well and decided to take a nap, despite sleeping the night before. She woke him up eight hours later and noticed a bad, “indescribable” smell. Harrison showered and brushed his teeth, and the couple joined their friends at the casino.
As the night progressed, McCoy said Harrison began to feel ill again. At this point, McCoy said, Harrison told her that “‘something doesn’t feel right.’” They fell asleep back in their room, and as McCoy recalled, around 5:20 a.m. Harrison woke up, profusely sweating and having difficulty moving and talking. She called for an ambulance, but was told “the hotel practice is just to send a doctor first.” The hotel doctor arrived 22 minutes later. After attempting CPR and using a defibrillator, the doctor called for an ambulance, McCoy said.
At the hospital, the funeral director told McCoy that Harrison had passed. According to the emergency medical report, the hotel doctor stated that Harrison had “presented cardiorespiratory arrest.” The cause of death is listed as a heart attack, atherosclerosis and pulmonary edema on his death certificate.
It cost McCoy almost $20,000 to bring her husband home, she said, between hospital costs — which McCoy said had to be paid upfront — the hotel doctor fee of almost $3,000, funeral home fees and the nearly $1,800 flight to the United States.
She had to create a GoFundMe for the fees and was able to bring in almost $22,000, but that still wasn’t enough to cover the cost of funeral expenses once Harrison arrived home. In total, after all fees and services — hospital, transportation, funeral home — were paid, McCoy said she spent between $25,000 and $26,000.
McCoy decided to tell her husband’s story to “bring awareness.”
“I just figured if I can stop one person from going down there and potentially having the same fate, then me coming forwards and me reliving everything once again is worth it because I don’t want anybody to go through what I went through,” she said.
Seven lives lost
Yvette Monique Sport, 51, from a Philadelphia suburb, died at a Bahia Principe resort June 2018, according to NBC. Sport’s sister, Felecia Nieves, came forward and told the news organization that Sport had a drink from the minibar and went to bed. Her fiance woke up the next morning to find Sport unresponsive. Her death certificate lists the cause of death as a heart attack.
Robert Bell Wallace, 67, from California, who stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana, died April 14, 2019, Business Insider reports. His niece, Chloe Arnold, interviewed with Fox and said that three days before his passing, Wallace ordered a scotch from the minibar. He felt ill, she said, and went to the hospital on April 13. He died the following day. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
John Corcoran, 60, brother of businesswoman and “Shark Tank” host Barbara Corcoran, died of a heart attack while in the Dominican Republic in April, Barbara told TMZ. In her interview with the organization, she did not mention what hotel he stayed at.
As of June 13, seven Americans were reported to have died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. Many others have reported falling sick while staying at resorts.
“The more people that come forward, the more it will get the attention of, you know, whoever should be investigating,” McCoy said. “Hopefully it’s going to save people.”
According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Dominican Republic is ranked as a two on the Travel Advisory Level, meaning travelers should “exercise increased caution.”
“The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens who visit or reside in the Dominican Republic,” a statement from the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic reads. “The U.S. Embassy is engaged with Dominican authorities and actively monitoring the investigations.”