Leyla Cox, a radiologist remembered for her sweet demeanor, has become the latest American tourist to die while visiting the Dominican Republic.
At least seven other American tourists have perished suddenly after visiting resorts in the Dominican Republic. Although authorities and resorts in that country have tended to paint the deaths as isolated and natural, many family members and friends feel otherwise. The FBI is now investigating the string of deaths.
“The safety and security of U.S. citizens that live in, work in, and visit the Dominican Republic remains our highest priority. These incidents are tragic and we offer our deepest condolences to those personally impacted,” Ambassador Robin Bernstein said in a statement.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Leyla Cox Went to the Dominican Republic to Celebrate Her Birthday
It was supposed to be a celebration. According to The New York Daily News, the 53-year-old Staten Island, New York mother went to the Dominican Republic to celebrate her birthday.
She never returned home.
“We can confirm the death of U.S. citizen Leyla Cox in the Dominican Republic on June 11. Out of respect for family members and loved ones we cannot comment further,” the State Department told Fox News. It’s not clear which resort she was staying in.
2. Authorities Claimed Cox Suffered a Heart Attack But Her Son Doesn’t Believe It
Dominican officials claimed she suffered a heart attack. “It’s been a non-stop nightmare ever since I got that phone call,” said William Cox, her son, to ABC 7. He doesn’t buy the official cause of death, telling the television station:
“She was too young to die of a heart attack, she was too healthy.” She left on June 5, 2019.
William told Fox News: “I am overwhelmed and confused and in shock. With everything going on in the news right now, we think she’s a casualty of what’s been happening.”
“She was very friendly with my daughter and really looked out for her,” Cox’s neighbor, Matt Holliday, told The New York Post. “She was thrilled to be going to the DR for her birthday. It was going to be a celebration. This is beyond sad.”
3. Leyla Cox Worked as a Traveling MRI Technologist
Leyla’s Facebook page says she worked as a “Traveling MRI Technologist,” studied at Roane State Community College, went to Pompano Beach High School, and was single.
Peggy Riley wrote a tribute to Leyla Cox on Facebook. “Against my better judgement, I’m posting – a co worker/friend went to the DR for her bday. She was from Tennessee and worked first as a traveling MRI TECH For RUMC and then hired full time – Leyla Cox WAS THE SWEETEST , best MRI TECH THAT I ever have known, she pioneered our MRI DEPT bc we never had one before,” she wrote.
“Well we got the call from her sister/son that she apparently had a heart attack and passed away in the Dominican Republic ???? She turned 53 on Saturday. I want the world to know , that another US Citizen passed away in this vacation destination , that as far as I know is not being held accountable for the past transgressions. Hopefully this will be investigated. Until then. May you be resting in the Sweetest peace Leyla and until we meet again may The lord hold you in the palm of his hands . I am sad about a lot of things , I dropped you off so many times , now I wish I went with you for that drink etc ???? rest easy my friend .???”
4. A String of Other Tourists Have Died on Vacation in the Dominican Republic
At least seven other U.S. tourists have died in a similar manner in the Dominican Republic. Some of the deaths followed a similar pattern: People drank from their hotel minibars, and then suddenly fell ill. After their deaths, too young, authorities wrote the deaths off as heart attacks or other natural ailments.
The other victims were Robert Wallace, David Harrison, Yvette Monique Sport, Nathaniel Edward Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day, John Corcoran, and Miranda Schaup-Werner. Authorities said that Holmes, Day, and Schaup-Werner died from pulmonary edema and respiratory failure.
According to The New York Times, 2 million Americans visit the Dominican Republic each year.
Sport was staying at a Bahia Príncipe resort; Harrison and Wallace were staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana. Holmes and Day were staying at the Grand Bahia Príncipe La Romana. Werner was staying at Luxury Bahia Príncipe Bouganville, the Times reported.
On June 11, the U.S. Embassy wrote, “The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo is actively working with the Government of the Dominican Republic and the private sector at the highest levels to ensure that U.S. citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican Republic. Dominican authorities have asked for FBI assistance for further toxicology analysis on the recent Bahia Principe, La Romana cases and our FBI colleagues tell us that those results may take up to 30 days. We ask everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course.”
5. Authorities Are Investigating Whether Bootlegged Liquor Led to the Deaths
Was it counterfeit liquor? That’s what authorities want to know, according to The New York Post. Specifically, they want to see whether people were poisoned with Methanol, which is a form of alcohol commonly found in antifreeze.
There have been similar problems at some Mexican resorts, and a Wisconsin family has filed a wrongful death suit after their 20-year-old daughter died there. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran an investigative series that explored problems with blackouts after drinking at some Mexican resorts.
The Wisconsin girl’s brother also blacked out and recalled they were drinking tequila shortly before, the newspaper reported.