Another American tourist dies in the Dominican Republic

By Brian Pascus

/ CBS News

Concern over deaths in Dominican Republic

An American died last week while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, bringing the total of U.S. citizens who died while traveling on the island to at least eight this year and 11 in the past year. Vittorio Caruso, 56, died on June 17 while vacationing on the island, CBS News New York reported.

The State Department confirmed to CBS New York that Caruso, a recently retired owner of a pizza shop from Glen Cove, N.Y., died on vacation there this month, but his cause of death is unknown at this time. Caruso's family was too distraught to speak on camera to CBS but said the Dominican Republic has given them conflicting information about where and when he died.

According to the Fox News, Caruso was scheduled to return on June 27. He was vacationing at the Boca Chico Resort in Santo Domingo. Caruso's sister-in-law told Fox News, "he was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something."

Vittorio Caruso in an undated photo before his death on June 17, 2019. CBS New York

Caruso's family told the New York Post that he was "very healthy" and that "he went to the doctor before he left, and he had no problems."

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CBS News has reported on what we know so far about the multiple American tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic this year and last year. Some of the deaths reportedly occurred after the visitors complained of feeling ill after eating a meal or drinking out of the hotel minibar. The U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo said there is no proof at this point the deaths are linked. Several of the deaths were reported to be a heart attack, which health officials say is the most common cause of death for Americans on vacation.

CBS News spoke last week with César Duverany, a spokesperson for the Dominican Republic's foreign ministry, who said the cases are isolated out of more than 6 million tourists, and that this doesn't mean the country is unsafe. He noted that the government has a special body focused on tourism safety, with protocols in place that have not changed.

On Friday, the island's tourism minister said the tourist deaths were a medically and statistically normal phenomenon. "We want the truth to prevail," Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García said. "There is nothing to hide here."

The FBI has a team in the Dominican Republic investigating the American deaths.

First published on June 24, 2019 / 8:50 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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