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Three Americans, two men and a woman, died at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort on Great Exuma island in the Bahamas, with a fourth American woman airlifted to a Florida hospital back in the United States, Bahamian Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper said in a press release this past Friday.
“Police are investigating and the cause of death is still unknown. However, I am advised that foul play is not suspected. I have asked Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Michael Darville, to lead a delegation this evening to Exuma of health & wellness, environment and public works officials,” Cooper said.
After 9:00 a.m. this past Friday local officials were dispatched to the resort to investigate. They were first directed to one villa where they discovered an American male laying unresponsive on the ground without any signs of trauma, who was later pronounced dead by the local doctor, according to the Royal Bahamas Police Force release.
Paul A. Rolle, police commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force later identified the man as Vincent Paul Chiarella, 64, of Florida during a press conference this week.
Entrance to the Sandals resort during the second round of the Korn Ferry Tour’s The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay golf course on January 13, 2020, in Great Exuma, Bahamas. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)
The officials then were directed to the second villa, where they found another an unresponsive American male slumped against a bathroom wall and a Caucasian female unresponsive in the bedroom. Both showed signs of convulsions, but no trauma and a local doctor later pronounced them dead, per the release.
Rolle later identified the couple as Michael Phillips, 68, and Robbie Phillips, 65, of Tennessee.
Vincent Chiarella had traveled to the Bahamas with his wife, Donnis Chiarella, from Birmingham, Ala. to celebrate their wedding anniversary, Austin Chiarella, a son of the couple, told ABC News.
But on Thursday night, his mother became sick, so she went to a medical clinic, but was later released, and felt fine at the time.
“She woke up and my dad was laying there on the floor, and she couldn’t move,” Austin Chiarella told ABC News.
“Her legs and arms [were] swollen, and she couldn’t move, and she screamed to get someone to come in the door.”
Donnis Chiarella was airlifted back to the United States and is now in serious condition in a hospital in Florida, Rolle said at the news conference.
All four Americans went to see a health care professional complaining of not feeling well the night before the bodies were found, according to a USA Today report.
“They were all treated at different times, and they ate at different places,” Rolle said.
“We are checking all of that, and hopefully we will be able to determine whether it was some food or something else that caused it.”
Robbie and Michael Phillips, two of the victims discovered on Friday, May 6 at Sandals Emerald Bay in Great Exuma, Bahamas. (Facebook/Thesandalslady)
Multiple guests at the resort also sought medical care after complaining of nausea and vomiting last Thursday. They received treatment and later returned to the resort that night, Darville told Eyewitness News Bahamas.
“We really want to know what caused this without speculation,” Rolle said, adding samples were taken from the bodies “to determine whether any contaminants are present.”
He noted that the Bahamian authorities are working with a Philadelphia laboratory to expedite toxicology tests on the autopsies of the victims, which were performed on Monday. The results are expected within one week, according to USA Today.
Chris Coucheron-Aamot, a guest at the Sandals resort who was staying in the building next to the victims, wrote on Facebook: “It sounds like it may have been a fault with the a/c in the unit, causing a toxic coolant leak. It was hard to sleep last night – every time the a/c came on, I woke up.”
A General view during the Sandals Emerald Bay celebrity golf weekend at Sandals Emerald Bay Resort on April 9, 2010 in Great Exuma Island, Bahamas. (Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Sandals Resorts, which operates 16 resorts across the Caribbean, confirmed the death of three guests at Emerald Bay resort, per a statement.
“Nothing is more important to Sandals Resorts than the safety of our guests. … A health emergency was initially reported and following our protocols we immediately alerted emergency medical professionals and relevant local authorities to provide support and investigate the situation.”
These deaths come three years after more than 20 tourists died while vacationing in Costa Rica after consuming alcohol with toxic levels of methanol and 10 American tourists died in the Dominican Republic, according to USA Today.
After the American tourists died, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism increased safety regulations and enhanced food and drink inspections, per USA Today.
And in March 2015, a Delaware family who was staying at a villa in the Virgin Islands fell ill with debilitating neurological symptoms days after Terminix employees sprayed the pesticide methyl bromide, a toxic substance that’s banned for indoor residential use, in the condo below theirs, according to a 2015 WVEC-TV report.
“We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the cause of death. We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the privacy of the families, we have nothing further to add at this time,” the State Department told USA Today.