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Frightful similarities encircling tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic – Caribbean News Now

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By Caribbean News Now contributor

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic – The latest in a series of startling similar fatalities in the Dominican Republic, a sixth American tourist was reported Monday to have died from a strange illness at a resort in the island that shares a border with Haiti.

Most of the deaths, and several other serious illnesses, include healthy, middle-aged adults who consumed a drink from their hotel room minibar before abruptly becoming severely ill.

That link appears like more than a fluke to the victims’ loved ones and has led to increased calls for action and even for the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to initiate an investigation.

The most recent death to be reported was that of Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California, who police stated died on April 14 while in the Dominican resort town of Punta Cana at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The coroner has yet to ascertain Wallace’s cause of death. However, his niece told reporters that her uncle became ill quickly after drinking a glass of scotch from the minibar in his room – three days later, he died in a hospital.

“We have so many questions,” niece Chloe Arnold lamented to reporters. “We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

The revelation that another American tourist, David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, had died at the same Hard Rock in July 2018 under likewise mysterious circumstances further complicates this mystery.

Furthermore, just one month after Wallace died, three others mysteriously died in their rooms at another Dominican resort within five days in May.

Seventy miles west of Punta Cana at the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in La Romana, Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, of Pennsylvania, fainted and died in her room on May 25 after consuming a drink from her minibar. Five days later, Cynthia Day, 49, and Edward Holmes, 63 were discovered deceased in their room at the neighbouring Grand Bahia Principe resort.

Felicia Nieves, the sister of Yvette Monique Short, 51, last week phoned for answers after her sister died suddenly while vacationing at the Bahia Principe last June. Felicia Nieves told reporters her sister consumed a drink from the minibar inside her room, went to sleep and never woke up.

The deaths made headlines and initially put the focus on what now seems to be a yearlong pattern.

The news of the increasing death toll was especially troubling to Awilda Montes, 43, who stated she started vomiting blood after drinking soda from her minibar at the Grand Bahia Principe last October, but managed to survive.

“This could have been me in the headlines,” Montes informed reporters. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have left the island straight away.”

Montes surmises someone swapped the soda with chlorine and states she has been left with no taste buds, ongoing anxiety and permanent respiratory problems.

“I’ve heard all these different theories and the most that make sense to me would be a disgruntled employee or a serial killer,” she said. “I’m doing preparations for my daughter’s baby shower and yesterday she turned to me and said, ‘Just to think you could be gone, you could have missed all of this.’ ”

It wasn’t apparent if Holmes and Day drank from the minibar, and officials credited their deaths to respiratory failure. As for Schaup-Werner, Dominican authorities stated she had a heart attack, but Jay McDonald, her brother-in-law, contended she died of respiratory failure and had a drink from the bar.

The Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts, a Spanish family-owned hotel chain runs both Bahia resorts. In an announcement on its Website, Grupo Pinero — the firm that manages the resorts — seems unapologetic, blaming reporters of publishing “inaccurate and false information” and of causing their reputation to suffer “great damage.”

A crew of specialists from the World Health Organization and the United States Centers for Disease Control has since arrived at the resorts and is handling analyses at the Bahia Principe hotels where the three Americans died.

Dawn McCoy, said she was informed that her husband Harrison’s death in July 2018 at the Hard Rock was a heart attack but states she now disputes that ruling.

According to McCoy, before her husband’s death, he was mumbling, sweating profusely and “had a very potent, strange smell” before his death. “I accepted it,” McCoy informed reporters. “Then, when all these people started passing, I stopped and thought to myself, ‘How can all these people have the same cause of death as David?’ ”

Tom Schwander, 33, and Kaylynn Knull, 29, of Colorado filed a lawsuit against the resort’s owners earlier this year following a doctor’s ruling that they had suffered insecticide poisoning while staying at the Grand Bahia Principe Hotel La Romana in June 2018.

The pair told reporters on Friday they became seriously ill after noticing an overpowering “chemical smell” in their room.

At a news conference, Dominican Republic tourism minister Francisco Garcia maintained that the island was safe as more travellers reportedly withdraw their vacation plans. Garcia said more than 30 million visitors in the last five years visited the Dominican Republic without any widespread fears about health issues at its resorts.



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Conference on the Constitutions and Model Legislative Initiatives in the OECS

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The Government of Canada funded Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean (IMPACT Justice) Project hosted a ‘Conference on the Constitutions and Model Legislative Initiatives in the OECS’ on 5-6 December 2019 at Ocean Terrace Inn in Saint Kitts.

The IMPACT Justice Project is implemented from within the Caribbean Law Institute Centre, Faculty of Law, The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus.

Topics on the agenda were: a comparative analysis of OECS constitutions; the standardisation of judicial pensions in the OECS; highlights of IMPACT Justice’s Model Business Names Registration and Trade Marks bills; the potential establishment of a sexual offences registry; arbitration in the OECS; providing for continuing legal professional development (CLPD) in small jurisdictions; the benefits of community mediation; and, gender-based analysis plus and the IMPACT Justice Sexual Harassment Model Bill.

The participants comprised of parliamentarians from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. They were joined by representatives of the legal fraternity from throughout the OECS, with representatives from the Bar Associations of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the OECS Bar Association, and the Organisation of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Association. Members of the media from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were also present.

The objectives of the conference were to enhance awareness of OECS constitutional provisions and to encourage consideration of IMPACT Justice drafted legislation by governments through explaining some of the key provisions and sensitising their representatives to the initiatives. The presence of the media also served to ensure that the information shared at the conference would be disseminated throughout the OECS.

In her remarks at the opening of the event, High Commissioner of Canada to the OECS, Her Excellency Marie Legault, pleaded with the delegates to ensure that the model legislation provided and the legislative drafters trained by IMPACT Justice are utilised to meet the needs of the region’s countries and to enhance capacity where possible. The Hon. Pam Webster delivered remarks on behalf of the OECS Assembly, offering thanks the Government of Canada for providing the opportunity for regional parliamentarians to gather in such a forum and noted that these initiatives help to assure the region that Canada is serious about its development. She concluded that development projects such as IMPACT Justice are a worthwhile investment in the region.

Government of Canada

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St George’s Leo Club World Leo Day 5 December 2019

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On 5 December 2019, the St George’s Leo Club, celebrated World Leo Day, 62 years of global service!

In 1957 in Abington, Pennsylvania, Bill Graver asked his father, Jim Graver a member of the Glenside Lions Club, “Why isn’t there a Lions sponsored service club for young people?” That question was a catalyst for action to form a youth arm of Lions Club International, which resulted in the chartering of the first Leo Club on 5 December 1957, sixty-two years ago. Thirteen years later, on 25 February 1970, the St George’s Lions Club chartered the St George’s Leo Club.

Leo Elmo with students of Constantine Methodist School

As this day marks a significant milestone in Leoism and Lionism history, the St George’s Leo Club conducted a literacy project at the club’s adopted school, Constantine Methodist. The resounding message that was the theme of the day, was the importance of literacy. To bring across that mantra, fun and exciting activities were held to captivate the students’ interest. Our Leo ‘Elmo’ mascot visited the junior grades and engaged in interactive chatter about reading and its importance, whilst encouraging them to always read. Next, an active reading session was held with Elmo and a junior grade, followed by a creative reading and writing piece with a senior grade, where prizes were given to the most innovative writers. Additionally, with the sponsorship from Grenada Schools Inc., we were able to donate over 100 books to the school’s library, together with stationery items compliments Bryden & Minors.

The day’s activity was filled with literacy reading and writing fun with Elmo, thanks to the kind assistance of Waggy T Rentals and Sounds Company, along with a very artistic literacy cardboard picture frame, made by PressiiBoo Dessins.

St George’s Leo Club, wishes to express sincere appreciation to all who made this day truly magical. As we continue our work of service and support in our communities, we encourage our young people to join our cause, as with more hands-on-deck, we definitely can make a greater impact.

Come next year, 25 February 2020, the St George’s Leo Club will be celebrating 50 years! A number of community projects will be held in commemoration of this jubilee. We look forward to the continued support from wellwishers, our communities and country.

St George’s Leo Club

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4H District Quiz a success

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The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands congratulates participants of the recently held 4H District Spelling Bee Competition.

The involvement of children and youth in the 4H Movement provides an opportunity for 4Hers to study the importance of agriculture in a quest to ensure food and nutrition security for all. The keenly contested competition attracted participants from 4 Districts, which saw the duo of Joel Alexis and Aiden Victor, students of Woburn Methodist School and St Mary’s Junior School respectively, being crowned the 2019 winners and bestowing championship honours to the St George’s District.

Victor following his team’s win said, “This is the fifth trophy I have won in academics. I got my spelling words only last week, but I had to stay up late to study. I would tell anyone to keep trying until they get it right.”

“It was study practice and more practice for me; I feel really proud of this accomplishment. This goes to show that you can never study enough,” said Alexis.

Through two rounds of competition, the students were required to spell words from six different categories namely, Fruits and vegetables, Careers in Agriculture, Pest and Diseases, Tools and Equipment, Food and Nutrition, and Climate Change.

Team St George amassed a total of 90 points. At the end of the official competition, teams St David and St Andrew were in joint second place. However, following a tie-breaker round, St David was declared second-place winner with St Andrew having to settle for the third spot. The combined team of St John and St Mark had to settle for fourth position.

Assistant Agricultural Officer and 4H officer responsible for St Andrew, Anna Abraham, expressed satisfaction with the success of the competition. “I think the children did extremely well, they participated well, which shows that they were well prepared by their leaders. Getting the children involved in educational activities is one of the main aims of this competition; 4H is not just about gardening, it’s about activities like these also. “

Chief Agricultural Officer, Daniel Lewis, commended the effort of the 4H unit. “I am highly impressed with the standard of the competition and the quality of the spelling competition. It was highly competitive and in a competition like this, it really allows students to learn and even improve their diction. Congratulations to the 4H team, parents who provided support and teachers who assisted these students. The ministry will continue to support the 4H movement, as it represents a platform for growth and development of our students in the agricultural sector.

Ministry of Agriculture and Lands

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