Long Island Pizzeria Owner Latest Fatality in Dominican Republic Deaths

By Ilene Eng

Another U.S. tourist has died after a trip to the Dominican Republic, raising the death toll to at least 11.

Vittorio Caruso, a Long Island pizzeria owner, was found dead at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo on June 17. The 56-year-old was traveling alone.

His sister-in-law, Lisa Maria Caruso, said he was healthy and ran a pizza business with her brother in New York.

“This was a complete shock to us, as Vittorio was not a sick person,” Caruso told Fox News. “He was expected to return home on June 27.”

“We found out he was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something,” Caruso said. “We were told he wasn’t responding to any meds he was given and died.

“I honestly don’t know exactly what happened, as we have been told conflicting stories from different people there.”

She said it was difficult getting more information, and that relatives were waiting for the autopsy report.

Caruso is the third American to have die in the Dominican Republic in June. The other two tourists were 53-year-old Leyla Cox from New York, and 55-year-old Joseph Allen from New Jersey. Both died in their rooms on June 10 and June 13, respectively.

Leyla Cox (Facebook)
JosefAllen
Joseph Allen died on June 13 after falling ill in the Dominican Republic, his family says. (Courtesy of Joseph Allen’s family via CNN)

Several deaths similar to Caruso’s case involved a minibar drink.

Relatives of the deceased tourists all claimed that their loved ones were healthy with no signs of illness before traveling to the Dominican Republic.

Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia told Fox News that the deaths were most likely natural, and that the Caribbean nation was safe for vacationing. In addition, he said that the Ministry had since tested the alcohol, water, kitchens, and other areas where that the American tourists may have come into contact with before they died.

The U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic said in a June 6 statement that “authorities have not established a connection between these incidents.”

Investigations by joint teams from the FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are ongoing.

The increasing death tolls has made people cautious about holidaying on the island. One report found that U.S. tourists were canceling their trips to Dominican Republic after learning of additional fatalities there.

According to flight data analysis firm ForwardKeys, flights cancellations increased by 45 percent between June 1 to June 17 compared to the same period last year, The Washington Post reported.

New bookings had also decreased by 59 percent, the data firm said.