- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2019

The State Department’s safety ranking for the Dominican Republic remains unchanged, despite mysterious deaths over the past year of at least nine Americans visiting the Caribbean nation — family members of whom are searching for answers.

James Allen, brother of Joseph Allen, who was found dead in his hotel room last Thursday, is warning travelers to “hold your horses” before booking a trip to the Dominican Republic, at least until more is known about the deaths.

Mr. Allen’s comments in an interview on “Fox & Friends” this week came amid news that the FBI is processing toxicology reports for several American tourists who have died unexpectedly. Reports have cited either sudden heart attacks and the possible involvement of alcohol, as well as the possibility of enlarged hearts and pulmonary edema, which occurs when the lungs fill with fluids.

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Among the first person reported dead was 67-year-old Robert Bell Wallace from California in mid-April. Then in May, three people were reported to have died: Miranda Schaup-Werner from Pennsylvania and a couple, Cynthia Ann Day and Nathaniel Edward Holmes, who were found in their hotel in the Dominican Republic.

All of the cases have involved reports of the individuals falling suddenly ill with similar symptoms.

While U.S. Embassy officials in the Dominican Republic are reported to be scrambling to help family members conduct toxicology reports and find answers, the State Department has so far downplayed the prospect of crisis.

“We have not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported to the department,” a State Department official told NBC News on Tuesday.

The department has, however, confirmed that at least nine American tourists have died in the Dominican Republican over the past year.

The State Department website issues regular “travel warnings” for Americans considering travel to nations around the world. The site currently has the Dominican Republic ranked as a “Level 2” on a scale of four in terms of risks associated with visiting the Caribbean nation.

Family members of the dead are searching for answers.

“It is a very small island,” Mr. Allen told Fox this week. “If 10 people dropped dead of a heart attack in a certain area in New Jersey, it would be a pretty big story.”

Readers of articles about the mysterious deaths have also expressed concern.

State Department should issue a travel ban on the DR until a full investigation of all these related deaths is conducted by the FBI,” wrote one with the user name “armyvet071979” on Wednesday in the comment section of an article on Fox News’ website quoting family members of those who’ve died.

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