Vittorio Caruso of Long Island, New York passed away on June 17, 2019, during a trip to the Dominican Republic at the age of 56. He is among a growing number of American tourists to die while visiting the Caribbean nation within the last year.
The FBI is investigating all of the recent deaths to determine if there is a common link. The Dominican Republic’s foreign ministry department has insisted that the island is safe and that the deaths are not connected.
Caruso was a frequent visitor to the Dominican Republic and owned a condo there. He went on this trip after retiring as a business owner.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Vittorio Caruso Was Rushed to the Hospital in ‘Respiratory Distress’ After Drinking Something
Vittorio Caruso died as the result of a heart attack, according to an autopsy report cited by News 12 Long Island.
Caruso’s older brother told the New York Post that Caruso had been in the Dominican Republic for about six weeks before his death. No other family members traveled with him.
Cariso was staying in the condo he owned at the Boca Chica Resort located in the capital city of Santo Domingo. His sister-in-law, Lisa Maria Caruso, told Fox News that the family has been told that Caruso was rushed to the hospital after he suddenly was struggling to breathe.
She said Caruso’s symptoms began “after drinking something.” She told the TV network, “We were told he wasn’t responding to any meds he was given and died. I honestly don’t know exactly what happened.”
2. Caruso’s Family Said He Had Been in Excellent Health Before the Trip
Vittorio Caruso had traveled to the Dominican Republican many times before this last trip. He owned a condo on the island, according to CBS New York, and loved to visit whenever he could.
His family told local media outlets that Caruso had not had any health problems before his vacation. His brother, Frank Caruso, told the New York Post that Caruso’s own doctor was surprised to learn of the sudden death. “I spoke to the doctor. He called me when he found out he died, and he said he did not see anything wrong before he left.”
3. Caruso’s Family Says They Insisted on Having the Body Returned to the United States
Vittorio Caruso’s family says it has been difficult to get clear answers about what happened to him. His sister-in-law told Fox News that officials in the Dominican Republic wanted to cremate Caruso’s body after the autopsy.
But the family demanded that Caruso’s body be returned to the United States. Lisa Maria Caruso said, “It is very hard to get a straight story from anyone there… We insisted on having the body sent back here.”
4. Vittorio Caruso Had Owned a Pizzeria & Retired Shortly Before His Death
Vittorio Caruso, the youngest of six siblings, was a well-known figure in Glen Cove, a city on Long Island. He co-owned a pizzeria with one of his brothers. They sold the business a few weeks before Caruso left for an extended vacation to the Dominican Republic.
A search of the New York Secretary of State website shows that the company, Caruso Brothers Inc, was first registered in 2007 in Glen Cove. Vittorio is still listed as the CEO.
Friends remember Caruso with fond memories. Neighbor Levonne Pittman told News 12 Long Island that Caruso was a “sweetheart. Very loving man, always said hi every morning.”
Friend Antonino Calandrella told CBS New York that he loved visiting Caruso at the pizzeria. “If I was going there and it was a hot day, he would give me a bottle of water, a slice of pizza, and never let me pay for anything. Very nice guy.”
5. At Least 10 American Tourists Have Died in the Dominican Republic Within the Past Year
Dominican Republic officials have continued to stress that the island is a safe place to visit and that the recent deaths have all been from natural causes. Nevertheless, Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia told Fox News that “disciplinary measures” would be utilized if investigations uncovered any “negligence” related to the American deaths.
The FBI has also sent a team to the Dominican Republic to investigate whether the deaths reported in the last year are connected in any way. Former FBI special agent Manny Gomez told Fox that it’s possible that poisoned alcohol could be a factor, but nothing is certain because the deaths have occurred at various resorts. “The next phase in the investigation if they identify that there’s a toxic substance they have to find out where it came from and stop it… The Dominican Republic needs to let the FBI do the good work that they do.”
The U.S. Department of State is monitoring the investigation but has not issued any additional travel warnings.