The family of the latest American to die while on vacation in the Dominican Republic have been told that there will not be a toxicology report on the woman because the machines in the country are broken.
Leyla Cox of Staten Island, New York, traveled to the Caribbean nation to celebrate her birthday on June 5 and was supposed to return home on June 12, her son William Cox told Staten Island Advance. She died on June 10, the day after her 53rd birthday.
“I have a right to be suspicious,” William told the newspaper. He said he wants answers.
“The Dominican Republic has not released an autopsy report,” he said. “They will not do a toxicology report on her because they say the toxicology machines in the Dominican Republic are broken.”
William said his mother had insisted on traveling to the Caribbean nation despite being begged by family members not to go amidst concerns of the recent deaths.
“My family wanted her to not go on this vacation,” said Cox. “I truly believe if my mother was not in the Dominican Republic, she would have been alive right now.”
Matt Holliday, one of Cox’s neighbors who was cat-sitting for her during her trip, said she was thrilled to be going to the Dominican Republic for her birthday. “It was going to be a celebration,” he told the Post. “This is beyond sad.”
Cox told the New York Post that he U.S. Embassy informed him of his mother’s death.
“I don’t know where she died—I know it was in a hotel. I don’t know if she was in a room or at the bar.”
Cox is the eleventh American to die in the last year in a spate of recent deaths.
— New York Post (@nypost) June 14, 2019
‘They’ve Put me Against a Wall’
William said he cannot afford to bring his mother’s body back to the U.S. to perform an autopsy and toxicology report.
According to the Advance, he intends to have her cremated in the Dominican Republic—as per her wishes—and have her ashes returned to the United States.
“They’ve put me against a wall where I don’t have a choice,” he said. “I have to get her ashes back.”
A number of the other recent deaths and severe illnesses occurred after the tourists had drank something from the mini fridge in the hotel room.
Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said via The New York Times that the symptoms described in reports, which include vomiting blood and bleeding, prior to the deaths are consistent with poisoning.
“It’s rare for travelers to die of unknown causes like this, and to have a high number of them in a relatively short period of time is alarming, shocking, sad,” Dr. Inglesby said. “It’s something that investigators should be able to get to the bottom of.”
He said without a toxicology report, however, it is difficult to establish exactly how they died.
FBI Helping With Toxicology Analysis
The U.S. Embassy said in a statement on June 11 that the FBI is helping with toxicology analysis on the recent cases, at the request of the Dominican Republic. The results could take up to 30 days.
Four of the deaths have occurred at the same resort—Bahia Principe in Punta Cana, according to earlier reports.
Bahia Principe said in a statement on June 7 that reports of the deaths are inaccurate and that “false information” has been spread in the media.
The company said it was committed to “collaborating completely with the authorities and hope for a prompt resolution of their inquiries and actions.”
The company noted that over seven million tourists visit the Dominican Republic every year.
“In the Dominican Republic, we have 14 hotels and more than 7,100 rooms, making us the largest hotel brand in total number of hotel beds in the country. We welcome approximately 700,000 guests each year.”
Cox was staying with the Excellence Resort in Punta Cana.