Dominican Republic tourism minister: ‘Exaggeration’ in reports of tourist deaths

The Dominican Republic’s minister of tourism said Friday that the country was the “victim of exaggeration” in reports of the recent deaths of American tourists.

Francisco Javier Garcia said that “there is no evidence of increased deaths in the Dominican Republic” in a news conference Friday morning. Eight Americans have died in the Dominican Republic so far this year, the latest on June 10. Two were from Prince George’s County, Maryland — Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 50, who died May 30.

Garcia said 15 deaths of Americans were reported in June 2011 and June 2015. “There is no avalanche of deaths of tourists in our country,” he said. “We don’t want the media — Dominican or American or any other — to treat us unfairly.”

He rebutted the notion that the recent deaths of tourists were “mysterious,” saying that each person’s cause of death was documented in an autopsy report. Holmes and Day were both found to have suffered from respiratory failure and pulmonary edema — a swelling in the lungs. The FBI is assisting with the toxicology analysis for the couple, and their families are planning for a second autopsy.

Garcia called the death of any tourist “the worst news we get.” He added that “when a person is traveling, they’re happy,” and for their family to get the news of a death on vacation, “it’s painful … it’s a tragedy.”

He said, “[We] must respect those who died, feel their pain, but not be part of a smear campaign.”

A Colorado couple is suing the resort they stayed in last year — the same one Holmes, Day and a woman who died five days before them stayed at — after they got sick. They told ABC News their doctor told them they were likely experiencing poisoning from a form of insecticide.

WTOP’s Max Smith and ABC News contributed to this report.

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