Three Americans who died mysteriously while vacationing in the Dominican Republic within days of one another all appear to have died of natural causes, the US State Department said Friday.
The sudden deaths in May of Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, then Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Ann Day, 49, five days later at the same resort prompted a wave of concern among vacationers in the Caribbean nation. It also prompted relatives of tourists who died in the Dominican Republic — at different resorts, and under different circumstances and times — to second-guess their family members' deaths and wonder if they were connected to the May deaths.
On Friday, however, the State Department said toxicology results from the FBI have been consistent with the findings of local officials, and the three Americans appear to have died of natural causes.
"The results of the additional, extensive toxicology testing completed to date have been consistent with the findings of local authorities," a State Department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "Our condolences and sympathy go out to the families during this difficult time."
FBI officials told BuzzFeed News the agency provided the results of toxicology exams to the Dominican Republic on Sept. 16, but their inquiry into the deaths was not yet complete.
"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.
Reports of Americans falling sick or dying while vacationing were particularly troubling to officials in the Dominican Republic, where tourism is an essential part of the country's economy.
"We can see that many international media outlets are just going for it as news, just to get the headline, and they are not really getting into what's going on," Luis José Chávez, president of the Dominican Tourism Press Association, told the Washington Post in June.
Schaup-Werner had checked into the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville on the same day Holmes and Day arrived at the Grand Bahia Principe Hotel La Romana, two neighboring hotels at the same resort.
Local police said the Maryland couple failed to check out on time and were found dead in their hotel room. They died of respiratory failure, police said.
Five days earlier, police had determined Schaup-Werner, who had a history of health issues, had died of a heart attack.
Days later, reports of other deaths and sudden illnesses among American tourists in the Dominican Republic began to trickle out, raising concern among the public, although no link had been found between any of the cases.
In June, Delta Airlines announced it would allow travelers to reschedule their flights to Punta Cana "due to recent events." After reports emerged that some travelers had fallen sick after taking a drink from their rooms' minibars, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino announced it would be removing the liquor dispensers from all rooms because of "guest feedback."
But despite reports, State Department officials have said there has not been an uptick of deaths of Americans visiting the Dominican Republic, where about 2.7 million Americans travel every year.
According to the State Department, 17 people died while traveling to the Caribbean nation in 2017. In 2018, there were 13 deaths reported in the country. Between January to June of this year, 10 people have died so far.
Public concern also prompted the US Embassy in Santo Domingo to ask the FBI to help local authorities with toxicology tests in June.
FBI officials did not say what additional two toxins the agency was still testing, but that it would provide Dominican Republic officials with the results as soon as they were completed.