Oklahoma teens fall ill after graduation trip to Dominican Republic

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EDMOND, Okla. – A group of high school graduates from Oklahoma fell victim to a string of mysterious illnesses in the Dominican Republic.

At least nine American tourists have died in the last few months in the Dominican Republic.

About 40 high school graduates from the Edmond and Deer Creek area went on a senior trip on June 8 to the Dominican Republic and returned last week.

NBC talked with three of the teens who all ate at the same restaurant called “Zen” inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. Within hours, they were sick, and some were hospitalized.

“It came on so fast, I couldn’t control it. It was scary, but at the same time, I tried to calm myself down a little bit. And then I didn’t know what else I could do because I kept throwing up for hours and it wouldn’t stop,” said Libby McLaughlin, a Heritage Hall High School graduate.

Another graduate also describes the situation as scary, wondering what was going on.

“It was so scary because the whole time I was so dizzy and everything was cloudy and I was like, oh my gosh, what is going on?” said Bennett Hill, a Deer Creek High School graduate.

Lilly Klontz, an Edmond Memorial High School graduate, also went on the trip and described her symptoms.

“I could feel the symptoms coming on, had a massive migraine, nauseous and dizzy and they said I needed to go to the ER,” she said.

Another group, some with the Central Oklahoma Parrothead Association, also recently traveled to the Dominican Republic and fell ill while on vacation.

“Four or five days we were having a good time but then by the middle of the week people were beginning to get sick,” said Dana Flowers.

Flowers, a local travel agent and member of the association for Jimmy Buffet enthusiasts, said they had quite a large group from the OKC and Tulsa metro areas as well as across the U.S.

“Out of those 114 people, 47 got sick there,” said Flowers.

Many of them, so sick they couldn’t even leave their room – Flowers included.

“Lost 14 pounds during that time and was really sick,” he said. “I can’t even explain how sick I was.”

Flowers tested negative for salmonella, but some in his group tested positive.

One – so serious it was reported to the CDC.

The FBI is working with Dominican authorities in the investigation of recent tourist deaths, according to the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic.

The FBI is assisting in further toxicology analysis of the deaths that took place at the Bahia Principe in La Romana. The agency said the results could take up to a month.

At least nine American citizens have died since June 2018 at a Dominican Republic resort or after becoming ill at one, according to the US State Department, victims’ relatives and the resorts involved.

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