Philadelphia Couple Gets Violently Ill While Vacationing in Dominican Republic

By Zachary Stieber

An American couple has come forward to say they got violently ill while on vacation in the Dominican Republic in June 2018—the same month a Colorado couple said they got so sick, “it felt like a chainsaw.”

Both couples were staying at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana.

Doug Hand and his wife, Susie Lauterborn, said they arrived in the country on June 14, 2018, and checked into their room.

Hand told CBS Philadelphia that he noticed a strange smell when entering the room.

“Like as soon as we got to the room, I noticed a smell. It smelled like a moldy, mildewy dirty air. My wife didn’t smell it but I like picked up on it right away. She started getting symptoms about a day-and-a-half, two days in,” Hand said.

Lauterborn had a temperature over 100 degrees in addition to rashes on her torso, intense nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.

“The stabbing pain in my stomach was unlike anything I’ve experienced before,” Lauterborn told Buzzfeed. “And I’ve had an intestinal infection previously in my life and had to go to the hospital for that. This was worse than that.”

Hand said he got sick as well but not as bad as his wife.

The couple wanted to leave but said it would have cost too much to change flights so they stayed at the resort trying to recover. They said the food and drinks there tasted off and that they mostly ate bread and water.

“Everything there was weirdly, bizarrely off. The food all tasted off, the drinks all tasted off, to the point where I was like, ‘I’m not even going to drink a glass of wine because it just tastes off,'” Lauterborn said. “I can’t even explain—we ate pasta one night, and it was so bad I couldn’t finish it. It tasted acidic, like battery acid.”

A 41-year-old Pennsylvania woman died at the same resort on May 25 and a Maryland couple was found dead in their room at the resort just five days later.

Several other Americans died at Grand Principe properties within the last year.

“Maybe there’s something deeper here. It’s really crazy to hear that people had passed away,” Lauterborn told CBS. “I don’t think it’s just limited to those people either. I bet with some further investigating, they’ll find out that way more people that visited that place got sick or even died.”

fourth death at dominican republic hotel
The Grand Bahía Príncipe hotel in La Romana, Dominican Republic in a file photo. (Bahia Principe)

Colorado Couple

Kaylynn Knull and her boyfriend, Tom Schwander, said they went to the same hotel as the Philadelphia couple in June 2018.

Knull said the trip started out well but quickly got worse when the couple chose not to buy a timeshare at the resort.

“As soon as we came back to the room, we noticed it smelled like somebody had dumped paint everywhere,” Knull told ABC 7. “We were drooling excessively. My eyes would not stop watering.”

They were granted a request to change rooms but the symptoms persisted.

“That night, we both woke up soaked in sweat at like four in the morning and kind of terrified,” she said. “And we booked a flight home before the sun came up.”

A doctor in Colorado, where they reside, told them they had likely been poisoned by pesticides that Knull said were used liberally at the resort.

“I was having the worst intestinal cramping I have ever experienced. It felt like a chainsaw going through my gut,” she said.

The couple sued the resort, requesting $1 million, after the resort refused to issue a refund or disclose the pesticides they use.

Knull revealed the lawsuit after the three deaths in late May.