What we know about American tourists’ deaths and illnesses in the Dominican Republic

Since the start of the year, at least seven American tourists have died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, and questions are also being raised about several more deaths in 2018. Several of these deaths reportedly occurred after the visitor complained of feeling ill after eating a meal or drinking out of the hotel minibar. The U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo says there is no proof at this point the deaths are linked.

CBS News spoke today with César Duverany, a spokesperson for the Dominican Republic’s foreign ministry, who said the cases are isolated out of more than 6 million tourists, and that this doesn’t mean the country is unsafe. He noted that the government has a special body focused on tourism safety, with protocols in place that have not changed.

Several of the deaths were reported to be a heart attack, which health officials say is the most common cause of death for Americans on vacation. Here is what we know these cases so far.

Jerry Curran

Age 78. From Bedford, Ohio.

Died on January 26, 2019 at the Dreams Resort in Punta Cana.

Curran died three days after arriving in the Dominican Republic with his wife. His daughter told WKYC, “He went to the Dominican Republic healthy and he just never came back.” His daughter said Curran fell ill after dinner and drinks the night of his arrival and that his cause of death includes pulmonary edema, or fluid in the lungs, which is listed the cause of death for at least three other Americans in the Dominican Republic this year.

Robert Bell Wallace

Age 67. From California.

Died on April 14, 2019 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana.

Wallace died after drinking from the minibar in his hotel room at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, his family said. Wallace’s cause of death has yet to be determined, but his niece told Fox News that her uncle had been in good health before his arrival and he became unwell shortly after drinking a glass of scotch from the minibar in his room and died in a hospital three days later.

Miranda Schaup-Werner

Age 41. From Pennsylvania.

Died on May 25, 2019 at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Hotel.

The U.S. State Department confirmed Miranda Schaup’s death on June 4; she died on May 25. She was staying at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Hotel to celebrate her ninth wedding anniversary with her husband. Her family said she collapsed and died after she had a drink at the hotel. Preliminary autopsy results released by Dominican authorities said she had fluid in her lungs and respiratory failure. The FBI is conducting toxicology tests. Less than a week later, two more Americans died at another hotel on the same Bahia Principe resort.

Nathaniel Edward Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day

Age 63 and 49. From Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Died on May 30, 2019 at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana.

The couple were found dead in their hotel room on May 30. There were no visible signs of violence. However, several bottles of medicine were found, such as Galanpertin, Oxycodone, and Loxofen. Holmes and Day had been staying at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana since May 25. A statement from the Dominican Republic National Police said that an autopsy concluded that the couple had respiratory failure and pulmonary edema, a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs.

Autopsy results showed some similarities between their cases and Schaup-Werner’s. The resort insists the deaths of the three Americans were unrelated.

Leyla Cox

Age 53. From Staten Island, New York.

Died on June 10, 2019 at Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana.

Cox died the day after celebrating 53rd birthday. U.S. Embassy officials told her son her death has been ruled a heart attack, but her son said, “I do not believe it was natural causes.”

Joseph Allen

Age 55. From New Jersey.

Died on June 13, 2019 at Terra Linda Resort in Sousa.

Allen’s family said he was on good health and traveled to the Dominican Republic frequently. His cause of death has not been released. Allen was there with friends who said he complained about being hot at the pool before going to shower and lie down; he was found dead the next day.

Tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic in 2018

Mark Hurlbut Sr.’s son says he was told by a Dominican Republic coroner that his father died from heart and respiratory problems last year in Punta Cana. Mark Hurlbut Jr. said his father and his dad’s wife felt sick the night before he died. “She woke up, and he didn’t,” Mark Jr. told CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO. “She told me that as she found him that he had something green coming from his mouth.”

David Harrison died in July 2018 at the Hard Rock Hotel, the same hotel where Robert Bell Wallace died this year. According to the New York Post, Harrison died of pulmonary edema and respiratory failure, but his wife said he felt sick with an upset stomach days before his death and woke up with a full-body sweat on July 14 and couldn’t speak.

Yvette Monique Sport, 51, of Glenside, Pennsylvania died at Bahia Principe Resort in Punta Cana of a heart attack in June 2018. According to the New York Post, her sister said Sport had a drink at the minibar insider her room, went to bed, and never woke up.

Reports of tourists sickened in the Dominican Republic

A New York woman said she became ill and spewed blood, leaving her without any taste buds, after taking a sip of soda from the minibar at Grand Bahia Principe Resort in La Romana in October 2018. This is the same resort where three Americans died in May 2019.

A Colorado couple claims they were sickened at same hotel where three Americans died in May. They have since filed a lawsuit against the owners of the Grand Bahia Principe Hotel La Romana after a doctor determined they suffered insecticide poisoning while vacationing at the hotel in June 2018.

A group of Oklahoma teens from Deer Creek High School on a senior trip fell “violently ill” on June 8 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, the same hotel where Harrison and Wallace died.

A Florida man who went to the Caribe Club Princess Beach Resort and Spa at Punta Cana in May claims he became “severely sick with stomach pain while swimming in the pool.”

More than 50 Jimmy Buffett fans from Oklahoma became ill during an all-inclusive trip to Hotel Riu Palace Macao in April. Some people in the group tested positive for salmonella, while others did not. Symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, chills and fever.

First published on June 18, 2019 / 4:36 PM

 

Record number of African migrants coming to Mexican border

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Undaunted by a dangerous journey over thousands of miles, people fleeing economic hardship and human rights abuses in African countries are coming to the U.S.Mexico border in unprecedented numbers, surprising Border Patrol agents more accustomed to Spanishspeaking migrants.

Officials in Texas and even Maine are scrambling to absorb the sharp increase in African migrants. They are coming to America after flying across the Atlantic Ocean to South America and then embarking on an often harrowing overland journey.

In one recent week, agents in the Border Patrols Del Rio sector stopped more than 500 African migrants found walking in separate groups along the arid land after splashing across the Rio Grande, children in tow.

That is more than double the total of 211 African migrants who were detained by the Border Patrol along the entire 2,000mile (3,200kilometer) U.S.Mexico border in the 2018 fiscal year.

We are continuing to see a rise in apprehensions of immigrants from countries not normally encountered in our area, said Raul Ortiz, head of the U.S. Border Patrols Del Rio sector.

The immigrants in Texas were mostly from the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Cameroonians have also been traveling up through Mexico and into the U.S. in larger numbers and seeking asylum at ports of entry.

On recent Saturday in Tijuana, there were 90 Cameroonians lined up to get on a waiting list to request asylum that has swelled to about 7,500 names. Also on the waiting list are Ethiopians, Eritreans, Mauritanians, Sudanese and Congolese.

Cameroonians generally fly to Ecuador because no visa is required and take about four months to reach Tijuana. They walk for days in Panama through dense jungle, where they are often robbed and held in governmentrun camps. They come from Cameroons Englishspeaking south with horrifying stories of rape, murder and torture committed since late 2016 by soldiers of the countrys Frenchspeaking majority, which holds power.

A few days after the big groups of African immigrants were apprehended in Texas, federal officials dropped off dozens of them in San Antonio. Officials in the Texas city sent out a plea for Frenchspeaking volunteers for translating work and most importantly, making our guests feel welcome.

Many were bused to Portland, Maine, about as far as one can get from the Mexican border and still be in the continental United States. Word has spread among migrants that the city of 67,000 is a welcoming place. Somali refugees were resettled in Portland in the 1990s.

A total of 170 asylum seekers arrived in recent days. Hundreds more are expected in an influx that City Manager Jon Jennings called unprecedented. With one shelter already full, a basketball venue called the Portland Exposition Building was converted into an emergency shelter.

Portland officials tweeted Thursday that rumors some of the migrants are carrying the Ebola virus are patently false, and said that as asylum seekers, they are in the United States legally.

On Thursday afternoon, families in the Expo chatted in French and Portuguese as children kicked a soccer ball near rows of cots. One of the men, 26yearold Prince Pombo, described himself as a prodemocracy activist and said he had fled his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, because of political oppression. He went to neighboring Angola, then flew to Brazil. There, he met a local woman and they had a baby they named Heaven. Now 16months old, she giggled as she played with her mother in the Expo. Pombo said his journey from Congo to America took three years.

More migrants are on the way. Mexico is on pace to triple the number of African immigrants it is processing this year, up from 2,100 in 2017.

Mbi Deric Ambi, from the Englishspeaking part of Cameroon, is among them. In a recent interview in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, Ambi said he was waiting for a document from the Mexican authorities that would allow him to proceed north to the U.S. He traveled overland through South and Central America after flying to Ecuador.

Human Rights Watch says 1,800 people have been killed and half a million have fled their homes in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon since late 2016. A United Nations official says 4.3 million people need humanitarian assistance.

We dont have jobs in the English part, the educational system is poor, they are looking at us as dogs, Ambi said as a crowd of migrants jostled outside an immigration center in Tapachula, waiting for their names to be called to collect their travel document. Ambi has been waiting every morning for six weeks.

We just have to be patient, because there is nothing we can do, he said.

The explosion in immigration to the United States from subSaharan Africa coincides with a steep drop in the migration flow across the Mediterranean to Europe after European countries and two main embarkation points — Turkey and Libya — decided to crack down. From Jan. 1 to June 12, only 24,600 migrants arrived in Europe by sea, compared to 99,600 over the same period in 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration.

But IOM spokesman Joel Millman doubts the migrant path for Africans has swung over from Europe to America.

Pombo, who was a teacher in Congo, learned in an internet search and by asking around that Portland is good place for migrants. He said his next step is to start rebuilding a life for himself and his family.

Id like to feel safe. Id like to build a decent life, he said. I need to start again.

Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon. AP reporters Elliot Spagat in Tijuana, Maria Verza in Tapachula, Mexico, contributed to this report.

 

Robert De Niro’s estranged wife Grace Hightower wants HALF his $500M fortune despite $6.5M prenup

Robert De Niro and his estranged wife Grace Hightower have had a rocky relationship. Though they’ve been married since 1997, there were times when it looked like the couple wasn’t going to make it. De Niro filed for divorce in 1999. The two fought over custody of their now 20-year-old son Elliot but eventually found a way to work things out. And the divorce was dropped in 2004. 

They would go on to have another child together in 2011. But in November of last year, the couple separated again. And instead of fighting over the children, this time Hightower wants the money. 

According to Page Six, yesterday lawyers for Hightower stated that they believe she is entitled to half of his $500 million fortune. 

In order to get this $250 million payout, she’ll have to fight a 2004 prenup she signed which stated ate she would be limited to a $6 million apartment, $500,000 in cash and $1 million a year in alimony. 

Now, the two are arguing over the wording the prenup. De Niro believes the document is clear. He also states that she’s entitled to half the value of a second apartment. 

But her legal team believes the prenup would grant her half of what De Niro has earned since the couple reunited in 2004. 

De Niro’s fortune comes from not only his acting credits but his stake in the Nobu sushi chain. 

Hightower also believes she’s due an additional 50 percent of what he’s earned from his ownership in Tribeca Grill, a Greenwich hotel and Canal Productions. 

De Niro’s lawyers believe Hightower is attempting to nickel-and-dime the veteran actor for his fortune. 

What do you believe she’s entitled to?