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Hard Rock's Dominican Republic resort, where two US tourists died, pulls minibar dispensers from all rooms | Fox News

Hard Rock's Dominican Republic resort, where two US tourists died, pulls minibar dispensers from all rooms

The Hard Rock resort in the Dominican Republic, where two U.S. tourists died in the past year, says it is removing minibar dispensers from all its guest rooms.

The resort said in a statement that it is also contracting with a U.S. health care facility to ensure that the clinic at the resort “is complying with all international and U.S. standards of care.”

The move comes on the heels of the news that celebrity Steve Harvey has dropped plans to hold his third annual Sand and Soul Festival at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which is in Punta Cana.  The event, planned for October, is being canceled because of concerns about tourist safety in the Dominican Republic, where at least 11 U.S. tourists are known to have died in the past year after suddenly falling critically ill at all-inclusive resorts. Another U.S. tourist died in a luxury resort on the popular Caribbean vacation spot in 2016.

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Dominican authorities have insisted from the time the first deaths were reported in May – when news broke that a Maryland couple were found dead in their room -- that they were triggered by natural causes. But because the families of the tourists have raised doubts, saying that their loved ones had been generally healthy and showed no signs of illness prior to suddenly getting sick and dying in the Dominican Republic, Dominican authorities and the FBI are conducting tests of the minibars.

Robert Bell Wallace, 67, died in April after suddenly falling ill at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. 

Robert Bell Wallace, 67, died in April after suddenly falling ill at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana. 

“Today, June 21, 2019, the Ministry of Public Health in the Dominican Republic has released further information on the American tourists who passed away in 2019, including autopsy findings that reveal these deaths were unrelated and from natural causes and pre-existing conditions,” the resort statement said. “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 safety and health of our guests is now, and has always been, our highest priority,” the statement continued. “Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana follows internationally recognized regulations regarding guest health, sanitation and security.”

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Questions have arisen about whether the tourists who died after consuming a beverage actually drank bootleg or counterfeit alcohol, where sometimes a legitimate brand of alcohol, or water, is mixed with a lesser grade and sometimes deadly substance such as methanol and other indigestible alcohol compounds and chemicals. Safeproof.org says that methanol, "a common additive to solvents, antifreeze and other industrial products is deadly for human consumption."

David Harrison, left, and Robert Bell Wallace, right, both died after falling critically ill at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in the Dominican Republic. Their families do not believe that they died of natural causes, as Dominican authorities have said.

David Harrison, left, and Robert Bell Wallace, right, both died after falling critically ill at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in the Dominican Republic. Their families do not believe that they died of natural causes, as Dominican authorities have said.

The Hard Rock statement said the resort implements "rigorous food and beverage protocols, including purchasing products from U.S. licensed and reputable vendors, as well as daily inspections of all products served throughout the hotel.”

"Additionally, our team members are trained to inspect all supplies, equipment and products that enter the property," it continued. "The property employs more than 70 security personnel per shift and has hundreds of cameras on property to provide the utmost safety for guests and team members."

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Two of the known 12 U.S. tourists who died fell suddenly ill while at the Hard Rock resort.

Robert Bell Wallace, 67, of California, became ill almost immediately after he had a scotch from the room minibar at the Hard Rock resort, his niece, Chloe Arnold, told Fox News. Wallace, who died on April 14, was in the Dominican Republic to attend his stepson’s wedding.

Arnold said her uncle, an avid traveler, had been in relatively good health and just the month before had been skiing in Lake Tahoe.

"He was fine," Arnold said of her uncle, who owned a construction business and whose obituary page was filled with comments about his generosity and compassion. "He and his wife arrived there at around midnight on April 10. On April 11 he had scotch from the minibar. He started feeling very sick, he had blood in his urine and stool right afterward."

In July 2018, David Harrison, 45, became severely ill in his room at the Hard Rock resort and died at a hospital.

His widow, Dawn McCoy, said that it took nearly a half hour for a doctor to show up at the resort room, where her husband's condition had been deteriorating quickly. A funeral director came over to her at the hospital to tell her that Harrison was dead. Like many relatives of the other U.S. tourists, McCoy said she was repeatedly pressured to cremate her husband's body.

On Saturday, McCoy said on "Fox & Friends" that she does not trust what Dominican authorities told her about her husband's death.

The Hard Rock statement noted  "All of the alcohol on property will continue to be brand name and sourced from the U.S., with the exception of a Dominican Republic specialty, Mama Juana, and local beer, Presidente, that we carry to support our community."

The resort also noted that while it has been inspected by the Ministry of Public Health, it nonetheless has contracted a U.S. third-party testing lab "to provide inspections and laboratory testing of all food and beverage products and public spaces."

The Nickelodeon Hotel & Resort in Punta Cana, which has not had any reported U.S. tourist death, meanwhile, is purportedly scrambling to find out what made former "Bachelorette" star Melissa Rycroft severely ill during her stay at the resort recently.

Page Six quoted a representative of Rycroft as saying she was still very ill, battling "major stomach issues" even after being back in the United States.

TMZ, the celebrity gossip site, reported that its sources say "the Nickelodeon Resort is freaking out and lots of people are canceling their reservations, though it's unclear if news of Melissa's mysterious illness is the reason for the cancellations, or simply the general hysteria involving tourist deaths on the island."

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