Adding to the rising numbers of people who have either fallen ill or died while visiting Dominican Republic hotels and resorts, a group of Oklahoma-based Jimmy Buffet fans allegedly grew violently sick while visiting the Dominican Republic’s Hotel Riu Palace Macao on an April group trip to Punta Cana.
Dana Flowers, a member of the Central Oklahoma Parrothead Association (who also serves as the group’s travel agent), tells PEOPLE that 47 of the 114 people on the the trip got sick, with many unable to leave their rooms. He said some are still not feeling “normal” two months later.
“We went [to Hotel Riu Palace Macao] for the week — some longer, some shorter,” he tells PEOPLE. “We were enjoying the beach and the pool, and about 3 or 4 days into the trip we started hearing about people getting sick. They were getting diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches.”
Flowers says the group initially chalked the mystery ailment up to food poisoning, but their symptoms began to worsen. Flowers, who was among those affected by the illness, claims he lost 14 pounds over the course of 19 days. “It was some of the worst sick I’ve ever been, and I don’t normally ever get sick,” he says.
Flowers claims that everyone who grew ill in his group either swam in one specific pool or drank at the swim-up bar. When members of the group sought treatment from the on-site doctor, Flowers claims, ”Most of them got an IV, then were prescribed a medicine for parasites. [They] didn’t do any testing, they just automatically gave them medicine for parasites.”
He says after returning home from the trip, two members of his group tested positive for salmonella.
In a statement to PEOPLE, Hotel Riu Palace Macao says, “We are aware that three guests staying last April at this hotel and coming from the same group … were attended by a possible case of gastroenteritis in our doctor’s office. These events occurred after an external activity of this group outside the hotel, so we can not determine the exact origin of the stomach upset. … No more similar cases were registered by other guests during the indicated date above.”
PEOPLE reached out to a representative for Jimmy Buffett as well as the fan club for comment, but have not heard back.
The U.S. State Department has confirmed that at least six American tourists have died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic since the summer of 2018. Some of them passed away in what appear to be bizarre — and similar — circumstances. PEOPLE confirms that both the FBI and the CDC are investigating these strange deaths, but the agencies are not yet releasing further details.
In addition to the six confirmed by the State Department, Staten Island resident Leyla Cox was found dead in her room last Monday from an apparent heart attack. She had just celebrated her 53rd birthday.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
On May 30, 2019, engaged couple Nathaniel Edward Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Ann Day, 49, were found dead in their hotel room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana resort, according to a statement released by the hotel.
Holmes and Day, of Maryland, were found by resort staff after they missed their scheduled checkout time that day, per the statement.
Their bodies did not show signs of violence, USA Today reported. The Dominican Republic National Police announced that an autopsy found the couple had respiratory failure and pulmonary edema. Day also reportedly suffered cerebral edema.
Pennsylvania native Yvette Monique Sport, 51, had just arrived at the Bahia Príncipe resort in Punta Cana when she died in June 2018.
Though her death was initially ruled a heart attack, with the news that several American tourists have died at the Bahía Príncipe in Punta Cana, Sport’s cause of death is being investigated again.
David Harrison, 45, was celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife and 12-year-old son when he died of a heart attack at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana in July of 2018.
On May 25 of this year, Pennsylvania psychotherapist Miranda Schaup-Werner, 41, collapsed shortly after mixing a drink from the minibar in the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville in La Romana, where she was celebrating her ninth wedding anniversary with husband Daniel Werner.
According to autopsy results released by the Attorney General of the Dominican Republic, she died of a heart attack that caused respiratory failure and fluid accumulation in her lungs.
In April 2019, Robert Bell Wallace, 67, died while staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino resort in Punta Cana. His niece, Chloe Arnold, told Fox News that he became ill after having a drink from his hotel room’s minibar. He was in the country to attend his stepson’s wedding.
According to Univision, Robin Bernstein, the ambassador of the United States to the Dominican Republic, recently said that these high-profile incidents should not be considered anything more than isolated cases. “We have 2.7 million Americans who come to the country and the statistics is that this is a very … unique event,” Bernstein said. “They come to visit the beautiful beaches and enjoy the great culture. Unfortunately sometimes those things happen to people.”