Long Island man who’d just retired is the latest American to die in Dominican Republic

A Long Island man who'd just sold his pizza shop and decided to spend part of his retirement in the Dominican Republic is the latest American to die in the country, officials confirmed.

Vittorio Caruso, 56, is the 11th American to die there over the last year, a State Department spokesperson confirmed.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family for their loss," the spokesperson said.

The Glen Cove man died June 17, officials said. The cause of death is under investigation.

His family told Fox News that Caruso was in good health, but was brought to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something at a Dominican resort. One of the other Americans who died in the island Caribbean nation became ill after he drank scotch from a minibar, according to his son-in-law.

Queens woman Awilda Montes previously told PIX11 News she was sickened by something she drank from the mini-bar at her Dominican Republic hotel.

"When I took a swig of it, I kind of held it in my mouth the minute I held it, it just started burning," Montes said. "I ran to the bathroom when I spit it out there was blood, my mouth was on fire, my gums, everything was bleeding."

The FBI has tested minibars as part of their collaboration with Dominican Republic authorities to investigate the deaths.

Caruso isn't the only local on the list of Americans who died while on vacation in the country. Leyla Cox, a 53-year-old hospital MRI technician from Staten Island was found dead in her hotel room on June 10. Joseph Allen, 55, from Avenel, N.J., died in his room on June 13.

Officials in the Dominican Republican or the United States have not said the deaths are connected.

Dominican Republic’s top tourism official on Friday downplayed as an exaggeration a spate of deaths among American tourists.

“It’s not true that there has been an avalanche of American tourists dying in our country, and it’s not true that we have mysterious deaths,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia told reporters.

Garcia said toxicology reports were still pending in some cases but that autopsy results and causes of death have been released. He said his country has been in constant communication with US Embassy officials. The FBI said Friday it has sent personnel to the country to provide technical assistance to Dominican investigators. The FBI described the number of people as a small team.

Garcia said the characterization in some media outlets of an “avalanche of deaths does not correspond to reality.”

The State Department has a standing travel advisory for the Dominican Republic, urging travelers to use caution because of crime, but it has not issued a travel alert specific to the traveler deaths.

From 2012 to 2018, 128 Americans died in the Dominican Republic from something other than natural causes, according to State Department statistics. That averages about 18 annually.

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