‘I Can’t Even Explain How Sick I Was:’ 47 People Got Ill During One Trip to Dominican Republic

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
June 15, 2019 Updated: June 15, 2019

Nearly half of the people on a large group trip to the Dominican Republic got sick after drinking alcohol from a bar at the pool at the resort, said a travel agent who was on the trip and was among those who fell ill.

The latest report on sickness in the country comes after the 11th suspicious death in the last 12 months was reported.

Dana Flowers, an Oklahoma-based travel agent, said that he and 113 others traveled to the country in April and checked into the Hotel Riu Palace Macao in Punta Cana.

Things went well for several days before people started to get sick.

“Lost 14 pounds during that time and was really sick,” he told KFOR. “I can’t even explain how sick I was.”

Of the people on the trip, 47 got sick. Many were confined to their rooms.

“It wasn’t just any kind of normal sickness. It was putting them down and in their room for two-three days at a time. Some people were even longer than that,” Flowers told KOKH. Flowers himself remained ill for 19 days.

“I thought I was going to pass out in the bathroom, just because the cramps were so bad,” added Kimberly Ridlen, who was also on the trip and got sick.

Ridlen said she got better before getting sick again.

“About a week later, after I was home again, which was a Friday morning around one in the morning, I got hit with it again and had really, really severe cramping and diarrhea with bloody stools,” Ridlen said.

Tests later showed that some of the people had salmonella while others did not.

The cause of the sickness remained a mystery but Flowers said everyone who became ill had one thing in common.

“Drank at the swim-up pool bar or swam at the swim-up pool,” Flowers told KFOR.

“A frozen drink from the blender that Dana said they were wash rinsing out, not drying out. So, we don’t know if that water was filtered at the pool,” Ridlen added to KOKH.

While no one died from their group, at least one has remained sick until the present day.

“We feel very fortunate that nobody has died and it wasn’t any worse than it has been but there are still a few people, at least one, that has been sick from that time on until now,” Flowers said.

The case of one of the sickened group members, Sarah Ciancio, was so severe that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched an investigation.

“It lasted four days for me. My sister-in-law had it for more than two weeks,” Ciancio said.

Oklahoma Teens Heading Home

Teenagers who recently graduated from Deer Creek High School in Oklahoma went to the Dominican Republic but were heading home after just two days there because they got sick.

Bennet Hill said he and his friends enjoyed the beach on the day of arrival but that seven of them got violently ill after dinner the next night.

“I just woke up, and my stomach was cramping and I was sweating,” Bennet told KOCO. “I was freezing.”

The teens were rushed to a hospital.

“We’ve been hooked up to IVs since we first got here with antibiotics, just getting hydrated,” he said. “Anti-nausea medicine, all this stuff because we were just so dehydrated.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.