Chris Palmer, a veteran who worked as a scuba diving instructor, died in April 2018

By Steve Helling
June 21, 2019 03:11 PM

A 41-year-old Army veteran died suddenly in the Dominican Republic last year, leaving his family to wonder whether his death is linked to the mysterious deaths since last year of several other American tourists.

Chris Palmer, a veteran who worked as a scuba diving instructor, was staying at the Villa Cocotal Palma resort in Punta Cana, according to Fox News. The resort is close to the other properties where tourists have mysteriously died.

At some point during his vacation, he told his friends he had a bad headache. On April 18, he was found dead in his room. Dominican authorities said he aspirated on his own vomit, Fox News reports.

“As soon as he died, I wondered if he was poisoned, if he was drugged,” his former girlfriend, Bernadette Hiller, told Fox. “He was healthy as a horse.”

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According to the U.S. State Department, at least nine American tourists have died since the summer of 2018 after falling ill in the country — and dozens more have gotten sick.

The FBI is investigating at least six of the deaths. Some of them died in what appeared to be bizarre — and similar — circumstances. The agencies involved are not yet releasing further details about the investigations.

According to the FBI, federal agents are on the island nation to investigate six cases: four from various Bahia Principe properties and two deaths at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

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People who have died in the Dominican Republic

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The bodies of Edward Nathaniel Holmes and his fiancée Cynthia Ann Day were discovered in their hotel room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana resort on May 30.  Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, collapsed on May 25 shortly after mixing a drink from the minibar in the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville. Pennsylvania native Yvette Monique Sport, 51, collapsed in 2018 at the Bahia Príncipe resort in Punta Cana.

At the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana, David Harrison, 45, died in July 2018, and Robert Bell Wallace, 67, died last April.

Officials from the U.S. and the Dominican Republic say that despite the media scrutiny, the deaths do not represent a statistical outlier.

“Speaking generally, we have not seen an uptick in the number of US citizen deaths reported to the Department,” a statement from the U.S. State Department says. “While the overwhelming majority travel without incident, we want to assure all Americans that we continue to work actively with the Dominican authorities at the very highest levels to ensure that U.S. citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican Republic.”

Carlos Suero, the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Public Health spokesman, told Fox News, “It’s all a hysteria against the Dominican Republic, to hurt our tourism, this is a very competitive industry and we get millions of tourists, we are a popular destination.”

Suero added, “People are taking aim at us.”

But Chris Palmer’s loved ones aren’t swayed by the official explanations.

“We are devastated and are seeking answers,” former girlfriend Bernadette Hiller said. “This was so sudden and unexpected. This has been a nightmare for his family.”