Less than two weeks ago, a Staten Island woman traveled to the Dominican Republic to celebrate her 53rd birthday. Now, her son is planning her funeral.
Leyla Cox is the fifth American to die this year in a string of mysterious fatalities in the tourist destination nation as authorities search for answers.
Cox arrived on the island on June 5 and was discovered dead in her hotel room on June 10, SILive.com reported.
Her only son, 25-year-old William Cox, told the outlet he is “overwhelmed and confused and in shock.”
William Cox said U.S. Embassy officials told him the cause of death was a heart attack, but he and his family suspect there could be more to the story.
“I have a right to be suspicious,” he added.
On June 11, the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo said in a statement that it “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.”
Since June 2018, at least six other U.S. citizens have died at hotels on the island, prompting the FBI to investigate.
Prior to Cox’s death, the most recent incident occurred at Bahía Príncipe La Romana, a resort where a Maryland couple was found unresponsive in their room on May 30 after missing checkout time. Dominican police said they suffered pulmonary edema and respiratory failure.
Five days before, a Pennsylvania woman vacationing with her husband died just 60 miles west at Bahía Príncipe’s Bouganville hotel shortly after she had a drink from the minibar in their room. Officials said the causes of death were an enlarged heart, pulmonary edema and internal hemorrhaging.
In April, a California man died in Punta Cana’s Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. He, too, had a drink from his room’s minibar, his niece told Fox News.
In July 2018, a Maryland man vacationing at the same hotel with his wife and son took a nap one afternoon after feeling ill, The Washington Post reported. Later that night, his wife said he was covered in sweat and exuding a strong odor. By the time a doctor arrived, he was already dead.
In June 2018, a Pennsylvania woman died at the Bahía Príncipe resort in Punta Cana. She, like others, had taken a drink from the minibar.
In a statement released June 7, Bahía Príncipe Hotels & Resorts said that “inaccurate and false information has been spread or circulated of by various media, digital platforms and social networks” and vowed to cooperate “completely with the authorities.”
According to the embassy’s most recent statement, federal authorities in the U.S. will assist with a probe of the deaths, though it may be a month before new information is available.
“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,” the embassy said. “We ask everyone to be patient while these investigations run their course.”