Long Island Pizza Shop Owner Dies Mysteriously in Dominican Republic, Says Family

June 23, 2019 Updated: June 23, 2019

The family of a pizzeria owner in New York said that the man is the latest American tourist to die in the Dominican Republic.

According to Fox News, Vittorio Caruso, 56 of Glen Cove, died June 17 while he was staying at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo. The U.S. Department of State confirmed the details to the news outlet.

Lisa Maria Caruso, his sister-in-law, that he was in good health when he traveled alone to the Dominican Republic.

“We found out he was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something,” she told the broadcaster. “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.”

When family members tried to obtain information from Dominican officials, “It is very hard to get a straight story from anyone there,” she said.

Caruso said relatives are still waiting for his autopsy report.

She told Fox: “They even wanted to cremate the body. We insisted on having the body sent back here.”

Caruso said that his death was “a complete shock” to his family.

“Vittorio was not a sick person,” Caruso said. “He was expected to return home on June 27.”

Frank Caruso, his older brother, told the New York Post that Vittorio “went to the doctor before he left, and he had no problems.”

“I spoke to the doctor. He called me when he found out he died, and he said he did not see anything wrong before he left. He could not believe the news,” he told the newspaper.

Elaborating further, Frank Caruso said his brother co-owned Vittorio’s pizzeria in Glen Oak, Long Island.

“This is not normal. We are very suspicious,” the elder Caruso added to the paper. “We think maybe there was something in his drink or in his food.”

More than 10 American tourists have died in the country under mysterious circumstances. Many were staying at inclusive resorts. Dozens more have reported suffering illnesses.

Dominican Republic Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia said that the deaths at resorts were due to natural causes, adding that it is safe to vacation there.

“We wish these things didn’t happen,” he told Fox. “But unfortunately, they do. … That’s why we’re interested in knowing what happened to them.”

Dominican republic beach
A beach in the Dominican Republic in a file photo. (Joe deSousa/Public Domain via Flickr)

Autopsy reports were completed following the deaths, and they showed there was nothing suspicious.

“If there’s something that went wrong, we will take the disciplinary measures that are warranted,” Garcia said. “We will make whatever decision we must make if there’s been negligence of any kind. We will act.”

The FBI said that it is investigating the deaths.

“To the people who have lost loved ones here, we want to say that when we learned about each one, it’s been the worst news we have received,” Garcia added. “When those people come to the Dominican Republic, just like when someone goes on vacation, you go happy, your family expects to see you again. When this happens, there’s pain and a sense of tragedy. The pain and the tragedy, we feel it [too].”