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Safety concerns prompt travel cancellations to Dominican Republic

Posted at 10:40 AM, Jun 19, 2019

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Reports of sick tourists in the Dominican Republic are fueling renewed travel concerns for some Florida residents.

A Lake Worth couple, Janny and Marlon Godinez, now say they are having trouble canceling their vacation to the country.

They’ve already deposited $400 and aren’t having any luck getting a refund through their agency, Miami-based Viva Travel.

“I’m canceling because I’m seeing how many people are dying and then I’m scared, it’s safety, I don’t want die in the Dominican Republic," said Janny Godinez. "If not, I have all my suitcases pretty much done, and I can go, but this situation ... no way.”

Most recently, 47 people out of a travel group of 114 reported becoming violently ill after traveling to the Hotel Riu in Punta Cana.

On June 10, American Leyla Cox died in her hotel room at the Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana from a reported heart attack.

Before that came news of three Americans dying less than a week apart at Bahia Principe Hotels and Resorts properties.

One Maryland couple, Nathaniel Holmes and Cynthia Day, were found dead in their hotel room May 30. Both had internal bleeding and fluid in their lungs, authorities in the Dominican Republic said. Their cause of death was listed as respiratory failure and pulmonary edema. In addition, Holmes had an enlarged heart and cirrhosis of the liver — both signs of significant pre-existing diseases, Dominican authorities said,

Five days prior, a Pennsylvania woman, Miranda Schaup-Werner, died in her hotel room after having a drink from the minibar, family spokesman Jay McDonald told WFMZ . The hotel said she died of a heart attack.

Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts released a statement on the deaths on Twitter, which can be read below.

regarding the two unfortunate events in the Dominican Republic, Bahia Principe
Hotels & Resorts would like to clarify the following:

— BahiaPrincipe (@BahiaPrincipe) June 5, 2019

In addition, five other Americans died in the past 13 months during resort stays or after becoming ill there.

Joseph Allen, a 55-year-old man from New Jersey, died at the Terra Linda resort in Sosua, Dominican Republic. His sister said he was not feeling well when he was at the hotel pool with his friends. He was found dead in his hotel room the following day, June 13. Preliminary autopsy results suggest that he suffered from cardiac arrest.

John Corcoran, brother to "Shark Tank" star Barbara Corcoran, died in his hotel room in the Dominican Republic in April. His sister said in the statement that he died of apparent natural causes.

Robert Wallace, a 67-year-old man from California, died April 12 after becoming ill at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, his family said. His niece said he became ill almost immediately after having a Scotch from the mini bar.

David Harrison, a 45-year-old man from Maryland, died at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana in July 2018. The man was celebrating his anniversary with his wife, Dawn McCoy, in the Dominican Republic when he reportedly didn't feel well after they went snorkeling. He died shortly after. The cause of death was listed as a heart attack and pulmonary edema by local authorities.

Yvette Monique Sport, a woman from Pennsylvania, died in June 2018 at the Bahia Principe in Punta Cana, her sister said. She also had been drinking prior to her death, including have at least one drink from the minibar. Her fiance heard her make "a gurgling sound" in her sleep, and the next morning he discovered that she was dead. The toxicology report is pending.

“It’s not our fault people are dying. Nobody wants to die ... they tell me it’s one case over there, one case over here. That’s why we are not going to give the refund to anybody. It’s a lot of death,” said Janny Godinez.

WPTV spoke with travel agents who say because of situations like this, it’s important to consider travel insurance and be aware of refund policies when planning a trip.

This story was originally published by Chris Gilmore on WPTV .

CNN Newsource contributed to this report.