The federal government needs to dispatch the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to the Dominican Republic to help investigate the recent deaths of several Americans, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer said on Sunday.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said experts at ATF could help determine whether or not poisoned alcohol might be one factor behind the mysterious deaths.
“We have a lot more questions than answers,” said Schumer, the Senate minority leader, at a news conference in his Manhattan office. “We shudder to think that these kinds of things are happening to anyone who goes on what’s supposed to be a pleasant, relaxing, memorable vacation.”
Schumer’s office said at least 11 Americans have died while visiting the Dominican Republic over the last year, noting three of the victims — Donette Edge Cannon of Queens, Leyla Cox of Staten Island and Vittorio Caruso of Glen Cove, Long Island — are from the metropolitan area.
Many of the people experienced similar symptoms before their deaths, including heart attacks or shortness of breath after ingesting an alcoholic drink.
Schumer pointed out some bootlegged alcohol includes methanol instead of ethanol.
“It can kill you — is that the cause?” he asked. “There’s no better agency than the ATF to investigate and find this out.”
ATF officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working with local authorities to probe the deaths.
Schumer also suggested the federal government send more medical experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Dominican Republic to assist with the investigation.
“So we also need the CDC to send down more folks because if this is a disease, and even if it’s an alcohol-related disease, they’re the best people there,” Schumer said.