Police are looking into whether "bootleg booze" containing toxic chemicals could have contributed to the string of deaths that have occurred in the Dominican Republic between June 2018 and now, the New York Post reports. To date, seven people have died, and there has been speculation from family members and experts that these deaths may be related.
Of the seven people who died, three people reportedly drank from the hotel room's minibar beforehand. Four of the deaths occurred at the same luxury resort complex, called Bahia Príncipe resorts, which is currently being investigated by authorities. Toxicology results won't be released for another 30 days, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy.
In an interview with the New York Times, Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said that although it's too soon to say for sure, the symptoms are "consistent with poisoning." So far, we know people have died from heart attacks, as well as internal bleeding and fluid in the lungs and brain. "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," he told the Times. "It’s something that investigators should be able to get to the bottom of."
On Friday, Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, told the New York Post that the symptoms resemble methanol or pesticide poisoning. Methanol is a type of alcohol that's often used as an ingredient in antifreeze, paint thinner, shellac, and windshield wiper fluid, according to MedlinePlus.
When someone ingests this toxic substance, it can lead to difficulty breathing, blindness, low blood pressure, coma, and seizures. Additionally, it can cause intense stomach pain, diarrhea, liver problems, pancreatitis, nausea, and vomiting blood, per MedlinePlus. If someone accidentally drinks methanol, they should contact Poison Control immediately to seek emergency medical assistance.
So, how would this dangerous liquid end up in a hotel's mini bar? "If it’s there, it means it’s been adulterated or put there deliberately," Kobilinsky told the New York Post. Again, this is just speculation. Despite this latest development, whether or not alcohol laced with methanol was behind these mysterious and devastating deaths in the Dominican Republic still remains to be seen.