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Bahamas seeks help in tourist deaths

by The Associated Press | May 10, 2022 at 4:53 a.m.
FILE - In this July 29, 2015 file photo, the Puerto Rican flag flies in front of Puerto Rico's Capitol as in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico’s government formally exited bankruptcy Tuesday, March 14, 2022, completing the largest public debt restructuring in U.S. history after announcing nearly seven years ago that it was unable to pay its more than $70 billion debt. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Samples taken from three tourists from Tennessee and Florida who died at a resort in the Bahamas under mysterious circumstances have been sent to a lab in the U.S. to expedite results and help authorities understand what happened, officials said Monday.

Officials also collected samples from the rooms where the tourists were staying and the surrounding property to determine whether any contaminants were present, said Bahamas Police Commissioner Paul Rolle.

He identified the victims as a married couple from Tennessee, Michael Phillips, 68, and Robbie Phillips, 65, and a resident of Florida, Vincent Paul Chiarella, 64. Rolle declined to provide their hometowns.

Chiarella's wife, Donnis, was flown to a hospital in Florida and remained in serious condition, Rolle said.

Their bodies were found Friday morning at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort in Exuma, where the couples had been staying in two separate villas.

The samples taken from the victims were sent to a lab in Philadelphia, with results of the toxicology study expected in about a week, Rolle said. He noted that the Bahamas' Department of Environmental Health and police officers are still at the resort.


When asked what he thinks might have caused the tourists' deaths, Rolle said: "I'm not going to speculate."

He noted that all four tourists went to a doctor the night before their bodies were discovered and they had complained of feeling ill. He said they went at different times and had eaten different things.

Meanwhile, Sandals Resorts said it would not comment further beyond its original statement, which noted that it is supporting the investigation and the families of those affected.

"Out of respect for the privacy of our guests, we cannot disclose further information at this time," the company said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price also confirmed three American citizens had died and offered "heartfelt condolences."

"We are closely monitoring local authorities' investigations into the cause of death and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance," Price added.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael Catalini of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Bahamas seeks help in tourist deaths

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