By Tara Molina


CHICAGO (CBS) — A local family is out thousands of dollars after canceling a wedding in the Dominican Republic, where nine Americans have mysteriously died in the past year.

There is a level 2 travel advisory, which means the State Department is warning travelers to exercise caution, but it’s not a warning that would keep people from heading to the Dominican Republic.

White sand beaches and turquoise water is what Jessica Stone had in mind when she started planning her dream July wedding in the Dominican Republic more than a year ago.

“Am I gonna die? If I eat something? Drink something? Get in a pool?” Stone said. “People can still go, but are you going to make it back?”

She has seen headlines about danger and mysterious deaths.

“The numbers are going up constantly, constantly,” Stone said. “So, I canceled my wedding.”

She figured, with the widespread safety concerns, her guests, who don’t want to travel there, would be able to get their money back.

But her aunt and uncle, Virginia and Joe Smart said they are out $4000.

“I can’t take a chance like that,” Joe Smart said.

“We are at a 100% loss,” Virginia Smart said.

They booked through a travel agency and don’t have trip insurance, claiming the agent never offered it.

“I’m going to fight until they get their money back,” Stone said.

“Things are just murky enough right now that we haven’t seen the State Department move,” DePaul University transportation expert Joe Schwieterman said.

CBS 2 asked, “With no ban or heightening advisory in place, what recourse do families like this have?”

“You have to go one-on-one with the airlines and don’t expect them to have mercy because they’re running a business and don’t have State Department directives that is an unsafe place to travel,” Schwieterman said.

It is unclear what difference travel insurance would have made in the case and this time frame because Apple Vacations and the independently contracted travel agent did not reply.

Just last week, CBS 2 reported on Chatham resident Anchelle Williams, who had been paying for months toward a Dominican vacation. Williams stands to lose $2,400.

In a statement from the State Department, officials said, “Local authorities report they have not found a connection between the cases during the initial stages of their investigation. Should we learn of safety risks to the public through the investigation, we will share that information.”

Officials also stated the Travel Advisory for the Dominican Republic remains at a Level 2 and advises U.S. citizens to exercise increased caution in the Dominican Republic due to crime.

Officials also said violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide, and sexual assault, is a concern throughout the Dominican Republic.

State Department officials said they are closely monitoring ongoing investigations by Dominican authorities.

Tara Molina