Fake alcohol behind tourists’ mysterious deaths?

The Dominican Republic pays a toll

Tainted alcohol may be behind the sudden passing of American tourists in the Dominican Republic. At least nine tourists died in strange circumstances, some of them after drinking from the minibar in their room. The FBI is investigating if fake alcohol caused the death of three of them.

Dominican Republic hotels

The series of deaths and horrific incidents in the favorite tourist destination of America started coming to light in April 2019. In June the FBI headed to the island to run a deeper toxicology investigation along with teams from the World Health Organization and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The FBI has taken alcohol samples from hotels where the deaths occurred (Bahia Principe and Hard Rock Hotel and Casino). The toxicology reports were expected to be released mid-July, according to Travel and Leisure. 

One of the possibilities being studied is if the alcohol consumed could have been imported with antifreeze (Ethylene glycol, a substance that even in small quantities can kill a medium-sized dog). 

The Ministry of Tourism of Dominican Republic recently said that it would start conducting quarterly rather than semi-annual food and beverage inspections at hotels. One of the hotels where the incidents happened told Rolling Stone that it would remove liquor dispensers from guests’ rooms and contract a third-party testing lab.

How to recognize fake alcohol

Tainted alcohol is not so rare to find being sold in the market. In India 154 people died in 2019 with laced alcohol and in Costa Rica at least 19 homeless people died after consuming liquors laced with antifreeze. 

Counterfeit alcohol is produced by adding dangerous substances, like methanol. It’s then known as methyl alcohol, that can cause blindness, liver damage, and death if consumed, like happened in India. 

If you are worried about the liquor you are drinking while abroad, specially from brands you never heard of, there’s a test you can perform: set fire to a very small amount of their liquor. If it contains methanol, it will burn green or orange. Regular alcohol will burn blue

Drastic fall in tourism in the Dominican Republic

The tourism industry in the Dominican Republic paid a toll with all these incidents. After the news of the sudden deaths of American tourists, Dominican Republic received fewer tourists from the United States. According to ForwardKeys, a travel industry consulting firm, the travel bookings from the U.S. to the island fell 84.4% for July and August in 2019 (compared to the same period of last year). 

However, the country is fighting back against claims that it is an unsafe destination. “We are a model for global tourism,” the country’s tourism board said at a press conference last month. “Here we are talking about nine people, but there are countries in the area where 10 times the number of Americans have died there. But all eyes are on us.”
If you’d like to recall what happened in the Dominican Republic a few months ago, take a look at the post we produced at the time.