(CNN) — A New Jersey man died at a hotel in the Dominican Republic last week, his family says, making him at least the ninth US tourist to die at a Dominican Republic resort, or after becoming ill at one, over the past 13 months.
Joseph Allen, 55, of Avenel, New Jersey, was found dead June 13 in his room at the Hotel Terra Linda in the coastal Dominican Republic city of Sousa, his sister Jaimie Reed told CNN.
The family doesn’t immediately know what caused his death. He’d been traveling with friends, and had stayed at the same resort many other times before, Reed said.
Allen’s friends have told the family that he complained about not feeling well last Wednesday. Hotel staff found him dead in his room early Thursday after friends expressed concern that he hadn’t met up with them that morning, Reed said.
The US State Department confirmed the death.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family for their loss,” a State Department spokesman said. “Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we do not have additional information to provide.”
Officials in the Dominican Republic have called the deaths isolated events as they work to reassure travelers their country is safe.
Of the nine Americans who have died at a Dominican Republic resort or after becoming ill at one since June 2018, it’s not clear how many were of natural causes.
“In the last five years, over 30 million tourists have visited the Dominican Republic, but this is the first time the international media report such an alarming situation,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia said earlier this month. “These are isolated incidents and the Dominican Republic is a safe destination.”
Officials say Dominican Republic still safe
Dominican Republic leaders maintain the country is one of the region’s top tourism destinations — with more than 6 million tourists last year — 2.2 million of them Americans, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Government spokesman Roberto Rodriguez Marchena put out a video calling the country the “largest, fastest growing, tourism destination of the Insular Caribbean.”
“Cheerful, welcoming and hospitable, our Dominican Republic, the economy that grows the most in America, with its beautiful beaches and mountains, its tasty gastronomy and hardworking people, invites you to know and love it,” he said in a tweet last week.
The spokesman said 14 million Americans have visited since 2012.
From 2012 to December 2018, 128 Americans have died in the Dominican Republic from something other than natural causes, according to statistics available on the US Department of State website. The deaths include drownings, homicides, suicides, and vehicle and other accidents.
The State Department has a standing travel advisory for the Dominican Republic — as well as some other highly visited Caribbean nations such as the Bahamas and Jamaica — urging Americans to exercise increased caution because of crime.
But the department has not issued a travel alert specific to the deaths in the Dominican Republic, and American officials have not said this year’s deaths were connected.
Matthew Bradley, regional security director for the risk management firm International SOS, said in a statement this month that the Dominican Republic is still a safe destination.
“These incidents, while recent, in my mind don’t indicate Dominican Republic is any less safe than it was before,” Bradley said. “I would tell people to continue with trips.”
8 other Americans died during resort stays, or after becoming ill there, since June 2018
On June 10, Leyla Cox, 53, died in her room at Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana, the hotel told CNN on Sunday.