A New York man died during a vacation to the Dominican Republic earlier this month, marking at least the 11th recent death of a U.S. citizen visiting the Caribbean nation known for its beaches and all-inclusive resorts.
Local media reports said the man who died this month was Vittorio Caruso, 56, of Glen Cove, N.Y.
News 12 Long Island reported on Sunday that Vittorio died on June 17. Caruso’s sister-in-law, Lisa Maria Caruso, told the station that the family had initially received a phone call saying he was sick but was told a few minutes later that he had died.
The family expects the results of an autopsy to be released Monday, they told News 12.
In a statement, the State Department confirmed the death but declined to offer more information out of respect for the family.
Over recent weeks, a series of deaths of U.S. tourists in the Dominican Republic have created anxiety among travelers and prompted the Dominican Republic’s government to publicly address the cases to calm nerves. Officials from the Dominican Republic have downplayed the incidents, noting that the deaths appear to have been caused by natural causes and that the numbers are in line with what would be expected, given the large number of U.S. tourists who visit the country each year — 2.7 million in 2018, according to the State Department.
At a news conference on Friday, tourism minister Francisco Javier García blasted media reporting of the deaths.
“It’s not true these deaths were mysterious. Science also exists here in the Dominican Republic,” García said. “We have determined the cause of death of all the deaths that have happened here. There are no mysterious deaths here in the Dominican Republic.”
Garcia said that five autopsies had been completed and that three further deaths were undergoing toxicological analysis with assistance from the FBI.
Public interest in tourist deaths on the island was sparked on May 30, when the bodies of Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Ann Day, 49, were found in their room at the all-inclusive Grand Bahia Principe La Romana hotel.
“It’s a bit unusual,” Ramon Brito, a spokesman for the tourism branch of the national police, said about the Maryland couple’s deaths in early June.
Subsequently, a number of other deaths of U.S. citizens in the country were reported. There has been widespread speculation about possible causes behind the deaths, with particular focus paid to poisoning from food, alcohol or use of pesticides at a hotel.
Speaking to the New York Post, Frank Caruso said that his brother Vittorio had been in good health and visited a doctor shortly before he went on vacation at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo.
“This is not normal. We are very suspicious,” he said. “We think maybe there was something in his drink or in his food.”
Some families have criticized the Dominican response to the deaths, citing unexpected medical bills from hotels and a lack of communication from officials.
Tourism is a major economic force in the Dominican Republic, accounting for roughly 22 percent of the island’s economy. Americans make up almost half of the tourists who visit each year.