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Inside the reports of deaths, sickness that have consumed Dominican Republic

There’s fear surrounding the Dominican Republic these days.

In just the past few months, the beach oasis has been battered by a steady stream of disturbing reports about tourist deaths, sudden illness and violent assaults.

At least 36 Americans have died on the island since January 2018 — and many more have been plagued by “nightmare” illnesses, The Post has found.

That death total — which includes everything from unexplained illnesses to drownings to cosmetic surgery gone bad — is even higher than reports have previously suggested.

Though more than 2.7 million US tourists travel each year to the Caribbean nation, many without incident, the cases have revealed a wide range of dangers facing travelers.

The fatalities and other bizarre incidents — such as the high-profile case of Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s shooting and a Delaware woman’s alleged hours-long assault— have unsettled would-be visitors. Tourism has taken a massive hit, with the number of trips booked for July and August plummeting by more than 74 percent.

Here’s everything we know so far about the Dominican Republic’s trouble in paradise:

Sudden deaths

The public first started noticing that there was something amiss in the Dominican Republic when reports emerged in May of an engaged Maryland couple dying at a resort in the eastern part of the country.

Cynthia Day, 49, and her fiance, Nathaniel Holmes, 63, seemed to be having a dream vacation the Grand Bahia Principe hotel, at least according to photos they posted on social media of them embracing on a boat and flashing toothy grins.

But the trip turned tragic, when the Prince George’s County couple was found dead in their room five days after they checked into the hotel on May 25.

On the same day that Day and Holmes’ bodies were found, a Pennsylvania woman, Miranda Schaup-Werner, died at the Luxury Bahía Principe Bouganville, another property under the same resort chain.

Schaup-Werner, 41, had a drink from the minibar in her hotel room then fatally collapsed in front of her husband, according to her family.

What’s more: Her cause of death was strikingly similar to what was listed for Day and Holmes.

Local officials determined all three had fluid in their lungs and succumbed to pulmonary edema and respiratory failure — with Schaup-Werner, who had pre-existing conditions, also suffering from a heart attack.

Their families insist the deaths are suspicious.

“The bizarre issue of the same hotel and these things happening within days of each other and the complete unexpected nature of what happened to Miranda,” Schaup-Werner’s brother-in-law, Jay Mcdonald, told news station WFMZ. “We just want to understand this.”

But the cases weren’t the end of the trouble. As word of the three deaths spread, others came forward with similar stories of loved ones falling ill and dying at various all-inclusive resorts on the Caribbean island.

At least 16 Americans have died since January 2018, in what appears to be a disturbing trend involving tourists suddenly passing away at luxe hotels, according to the families of the deceased and information from the State Department.

The spate of deaths has gone unexplained, but investigators are now eyeing the possibility that bootleg liquor has poisoned guests. Officials want to know who supplied the liquor that guests tourists drank in the hours leading up to their deaths.

The FBI is assisting with the investigation and also testing alcohol samples from at least one minbar at the Bahia Principe resort to determine whether there were dangerous chemicals in the booze, CNN reported.

Several tourists, including Schaup-Werner, died after they cracked open their minibars or drank from various resort bars.

Donette Edge Cannon, 38, traveled to the embattled island to celebrate her brother-in-law’s birthday in May 2018 at the Sunscape Bávaro Beach Punta Cana, enjoying the all-inclusive resort’s poolside bar.

For the final night, the Queens mom went out to dinner with her family before dancing the evening away at one of the resort’s clubs and heading back to her room.

“We were singing and all dancing up to the room that night,” her sister, Candace Edge Johnson, told The Post. “When we all said goodnight, we were dancing.”

But in the middle of the night, Cannon awoke with a stomach pain and started vomiting. Within hours, she had died from kidney failure at a local hospital, her family said.

Though she was on dialysis, Cannon’s family said they still don’t know her health condition escalated and the autopsy “never addressed what initially got her sick in the first place.”

A rep for the Sunscape Bávaro Beach Punta Cana said the hotel had since changed management.

“We were very sorry to learn of the death of Donette Edge Cannon,” the rep said. “It is our understanding that she died over a year ago in May 2018, was on dialysis and passed away as a result of health complications. We know her death is difficult for her family and friends and our hearts go out to them.”

A rep for Bahia Principe Hotel & Resorts provided a statement to The Post declining to comment further on the cases.

“We reiterate our firm commitment to collaborating completely with the authorities and hope for a prompt resolution of their inquiries and actions and will not be making any further statements that may interfere with them,” the statement said.

Terror at the Hard Rock

Beachfront resorts in the Caribbean destination have also been under siege by reports of “nightmare” illnesses.

In June, the property was host to a group of Oklahoma teens on a senior trip, which ended in disaster when seven members landed in the hospital, according to news station KOTV.

Libby McLaughlin, a recent Deer Creek High School graduate, and six other members of the group required antibiotics after they dined at the resort’s Japanese restaurant.

“We just don’t know what is happening,” McLaughlin’s mom, Liz, told the news station. “Is it the water? Is it the ice? Is it the food? Is it the food handling? Is it the pesticides?”

Another guest, Amy Burbach Jensen, said that her family got violently ill at the beachfront spot the same night as the Oklahoma teens.

Burbach Jensen, who is from Fairfax, Va., believes their stomach issues came after a visit to the resort’s steakhouse, Toro.

Within hours of the meal, they began experiencing stomach aches and diarrhea.

But the mystery bug hit her 18-year-old son Ben the worst. “He was so sick that he was curling on the floor and just laid in the shower. He was afraid to move,” Jensen told The Post, adding that it wasn’t until he returned home that he recovered.

According to one website that tracks such illnesses, nearly four in 10 reports of illnesses at resort properties on the island this year came from the Hard Rock, though that number was unsubstantiated.

Following the spate of illnesses, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino moved to have a US lab test food and beverages, as well as remove all liquor dispenses from guestroom minbars, a rep told The Post.

The new measures come after two fatalities were reported at the tourist spot.

In April, Robert Wallace, 45, of California, became unwell almost immediately after drinking a glass of scotch he procured from the minibar in his room.

Wallace — who was an avid traveler — had been in good health on a recent ski trip before traveling for his stepson’s wedding, Fox News reported.

But the construction business owner soon started “feeling very sick, he had blood in his urine and stool right [after the scotch],” his niece told the news station.

He died three days later at a hospital from septic shock, pneumonia and multi-organ failure, officials said.

“We have so many questions,” his niece Chloe Arnold told Fox News. “We don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, died at the hotel in July 2018 after complaining of an upset stomach. His death was recorded as pulmonary edema and heart attack, but his widow is second-guessing the explanation after other tourists were reported dead under similar circumstances, People reported.

The Hard Rock previously told The Post that the “safety and health of our guests is now, and has always been, our highest priority. Reps declined to provide further comment on specific incidents.

“We are deeply saddened by these unfortunate incidents, and extend our sincerest sympathy to the families of those affected. We will continue to respect the privacy of our guests and their families,” the original statement said. “Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana follows internationally recognized regulations regarding guest health, sanitation and security.”

Grisly assaults

While the rash of illnesses has been getting most of the attention in the Dominican Republic, the island has also been plagued by incidents of brutal violence.

Tammy Lawrence-Daley, 51,  survived a savage beating in January at Punta Cana’s Majestic Elegance resort, where she says she was attacked by a man wearing a resort uniform.

She said she was left with a broken nose, fractured hand, partial hearing loss in her left ear and damage to her mouth from the hours-long assault — though the resort has denied any wrongdoing and accused the mom of trying to extort them.

Lawrence-Daley is now suing the Majestic Elegance resort for “justice” and a staggering $3 million in damages, citing “permanent, life-changing injuries,” the Delaware News Journal reported.

The alleged incident came the same month that another guest, Robert Walker, was reportedly ambushed by two assailants while walking back from the same resort’s casino to his room.

“I would not travel alone or be out by myself,” Walker, of New Castle, Penn., told news station WPXI.

The Majestic Elegance resort didn’t respond to request for comment on the two incidents.

Four miles away, a Staten Island woman was raped and thrown from a second-story balcony at the Ocean Blue & Sand resort.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was drugged by a couple whom she met in June at the poolside bar, according to ABC7.

“I remember being taken against my will to the room,” she said. “I remember my pants being forced off.

The nightmare incident left the victim with a damaged spine, a gash in her hand that needed stitches, severe bruising and internal trauma, she said.

“People go on vacation,” she said. “They put their guard down half of the time. They are trying to relax, but I want people to know, you can’t have your guard down. You always have to be careful. It could happen at any time.”

The couple — who also wasn’t identified — is now facing a slew of charges, including attempted murder and sexual assault. However, they were each released on $1,000 bail when the judge noted the victim wasn’t present at the court hearing, ABC7 reported.

The Ocean Blue & Sand, the prosecutor’s office and the local police department in Punta Cana all declined comment to ABC7 on the alleged rape. A rep for the resort also didn’t respond to The Post’s request for comment.

Mysterious car wreck

The roads on the island have also proved deadly in recent months.

On March 27, a Westchester couple was seen getting into a rental car for their trip to the airport from the Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa — but they never made it home.

Orlando Moore, 41, and Portia Ravenelle, 52, were soon declared missing, leading to a search around the island.

Their car was finally found a few days later, in early April, by some fishermen who saw the smashed vehicle in the water near the coastline.

The couple reportedly careened off a cliff and plunged into the Caribbean Sea, officials said.

Ravenelle was found severely injured by the highway and died six days later in a hospital, while Moore’s body was discovered several miles down the coast.

Investigators believe that alcohol and high speeds played a role in the couple’s crash as they sped to catch their flight.

Moore, who was behind the driver’s wheel, made a wrong turn and reversed course just before the crash, police said.

Their almost unrecognizable, mangled car was retrieved from the Caribbean Sea more than two weeks after their disappearance.

Danger at sea

The sea also has dangers for travelers to the Dominican Republic.

Surely Miller, a 42-year-old yoga teacher from Pennsylvania, died when she was swept out to sea  on June 11 near a beach in Cabarete.

The mom of three went out for a swim near the coastal province of Puerto Plata before she found herself dragged out by an aggressive rip current, Dominican Today reported.

Her body was carried two miles from the coast and was discovered by a local fisherman the following day.

It’s unclear whether there were lifeguards on duty or any warnings about dangerous waters the day Miller was dragged out to sea.

Miller, who owned a yoga studio in Slatington, Pa., was mourned by others in the local wellness community.

“Just heartbreaking. Surely Miller was so full of love and life. She will be greatly missed,” Rebecca Olesen wrote on Facebook.

Deadly cosmetic procedures

Others have traveled to the country looking for bargain cosmetic procedures and died on the surgery table.

At least three Americans, including a Westchester mom, have died this year going under the knife on the island.

Alexandra Medina, 33, of New Rochelle, traveled against her family’s wishes earlier this month to the Doctor Urenea Arias clinic in Santo Domingo to receive liposuction.

Medina, who has a 14-year-old son, made the appointment for July 4 — but her family grew concerned when they hadn’t heard from her after the scheduled procedure, Dominican news outlet El Nuevo Diario reported.

The family later was informed that Medina died from complications during the elective procedure.

“I’ve lost everything. I feel I’ve lost my soul, like if it was being stripped out of my body,” her mother, Kanny Toro, told Univision.

Reports revealed Medina used the same doctor as an Alabama teacher, who died receiving elective procedures the month at the clinic, which was briefly shuttered by the country’s Ministry of Public Health, according to Noticias Sin.

Birmingham teacher Alicia Renette Williams, 45, suffered blood clots and died during a procedure on June 2.

The Ministry of Health announced that it’s opened an investigation into the clinic. It’s not clear whether charges will be filed against Almanzar or other staffers.

“[The clinic] convinced my daughter that she was in good hands,” her Medina’s mother wrote on a Facebook group calling for justice. “My daughter is gone forever.”

The Doctor Urenea Arias clinic didn’t return a request for comment.

David Ortiz shooting

Even one of the island’s favorite sons wasn’t immune to peril.

Former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was at a bar in Santo Domingo on June 9 when he was shot in the back in a case of mistaken identity, authorities said.

Authorities said that drug trafficker, Victor Hugo Gómez Vasquez, ordered the hit on Ortiz’s friend, Sixto David Fernández, under the impression that Fernández had sold him out in a 2011 drug case.

The alleged mastermind offered $30,000 for the hit job to be carried out on Fernández, authorities said. But the gunman mistook Ortiz for the intended target who was sitting near him at the Dial Bar and Lounge.

The botched assassination left the 43-year-old baseball great, known as “Big Papi,” in critical condition. He has undergone three surgeries, which have removed his gallbladder, parts of his colon and intestines.

The retired player has since been transferred from the Dominican capital to a Boston hospital. He’s now recovering from his third surgery after experiencing complications from the gunshot wound.

Meanwhile, police have nabbed 14 people in the case and are searching for others. Among those arrested was the suspected mastermind, who claimed in a YouTube video that he wasn’t involved in the hit job.

“I would never do something like this,” Vasquez said, adding that he didn’t try to kill Fernández “and least of all David, ‘Big Papi.’”

Safety in the Dominican Republic

Despite the seemingly endless drumbeat of disturbing stories coming from the Dominican Republic, officials there insist the documented deaths and injuries involve only a small fraction of the millions who visit each year.

“It’s not true that there has been an avalanche of American tourists dying in our country, and it’s not true that we have mysterious deaths,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia told reporters.

The string of incidents hasn’t impacted the State Department’s safety rating for the country, though officials have offered US law enforcement support and pressed the country to follow a rapid, thorough and transparent investigation process.

The country’s hotels, resorts and tour operators have been also urged to ensure staff are properly trained to contact authorities in a timely matter — and there have been calls for improved regulation of “medical tourism” in which patients travel from abroad seeking procedures.

“We want the truth to prevail. There is nothing to hide here,” Garcia said.

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