CHICAGO (CBS) — In the last year, eight American tourists have died on trips to the Dominican Republic.
Now, many travelers are canceling plans to vacation there.
Chatham resident Anchelle Williams had been paying for months toward a Dominican vacation.
“I really started having misgivings about two or three weeks ago as more deaths came to light,” Williams said.
The eighth victim in a year, 55-year-old Joseph Allen, died in his sleep after complaining about feeling hot at the pool.
“We don’t know what’s happening in the Dominican at this time,” Williams said. “Many of the deaths have not even been fully explained yet.”
Seven other Americans have died in the last 12 months, most due to heart or respiratory problems.
That was the explanation doctors gave Mark Hurlbut Jr. when his dad died in Punta Cana last year, but now he’s not so sure.
“Had I known what I know now, I would have fought tooth and nail to have his remains brought back here and have an American autopsy done,” Hurlbut said.
Williams contacted her tour operator, Recess Travel, stating, “I am concerned about my safety in the Dominican Republic” and asked for her money back.
Their response: “Refunds are not available” because rooms have already been paid for.
Their policy forbids refunds within 60 days of departure.
Williams stands to lose $2,400.
“It’s scary because no one knows exactly what’s happening, and I don’t think anyone should be put in a position of either risking their life or risking their money,” Williams said.
Two of the eight deaths took place at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana where Williams’ group was scheduled to stay staring July 11.
Williams admits she did not buy travel insurance, which could have given her protection.
But she said the Dominican situation is so extraordinary Recess Getaways should amend its refund policy.
Recess Getaways contacted CBS 2 following the broadcast of this story and reiterated the policy stating that refunds are not given less than 60 days before departure. Williams was scheduled to depart July 11.
A spokesperson for the company added that refunds are not given in that time because the company no longer has the money. It has been paid to the hotel, and it’s up to the hotel to allow refunds. So far it has not.
The spokesperson also added that Williams trip was with a group, and almost all of the members of the group are still planning to attend.