OKLAHOMA CITY – You may have seen recent reports of the mysterious deaths and illnesses of American tourists in the Dominican Republic.
In the last year, at least seven U.S. citizens have died while vacationing there.
Now, one local travel agent says he and dozens of others he traveled there with fell ill on their trip as well.
Gorgeous waters, white sand and drinks plentiful – it was a dream vacation in Punta Cana at Hotel Riu Palace Macao for the Central Oklahoma Parrothead Association – for a little bit.
“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.”
One person – not with their group – actually died at a different hotel while they were there.
But this was in April – at the very beginning of this recent rash of deaths.
“We had no idea when we were there that all this was going on,” Flowers said.
Flowers said doctors in Punta Cana thought it might be a parasite.
But it wasn’t.
Flowers tested negative for salmonella, but some in his group tested positive.
One – so serious it was reported to the CDC.
They’re not sure what caused the illness but everyone that got sick did have something in common.
“Drank at the swim-up pool bar or swam at the swim-up pool,” Flowers recalled.
Now – seeing all the recent reports, they’re feeling extra thankful things weren’t worse.
This wasn’t Flowers’ first trip there, but he’s not sure if it was his last.
“I will not be going back to the Dominican any time soon,” he said.
Recent reports say there could be a link between minibar drinks and many of the recent deaths.
Flowers says while some of his group drank from the mini bar – he never does – because it’s not always a guaranteed safe option.
Hotel Riu sent News 4 a statement saying:
“We are aware that three guests staying last April at this hotel and coming from the same group (of 120 people) were attended by a possible case of gastroenteritis in our doctor’s office. These events occurred after an external activity of this group outside the hotel, so we can not determine the exact origin of the stomach upset.Having said that, no more similar cases were registered by other guests during the indicated date above.We regret not being able to offer you more information due to privacy reasons.”