Three Americans die mysteriously in Bahamas


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Three Americans vacationing at a five-star oceanfront resort in the Bahamas died Friday under mysterious circumstances, authorities said, and a fourth remains hospitalized.

The unusual incident at Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma is being investigated by a team of police, health and environmental officials, Royal Bahamas Police Force Commissioner Paul Rolle said during an afternoon news conference. There were no signs of trauma and foul play is not suspected.

The four tourists — one couple from Florida and another from Tennessee — had visited a health clinic Thursday, complaining of nausea and vomiting. Rolle was reluctant to speculate about what caused the deaths, and he said samples taken from the victims and the resort have been sent to a lab in Philadelphia “to determine whether or not any contaminants are present.”

“Once those examinations are done, our pathologists will be able to provide us with an official report as to the exact cause of death and help us to determine exactly what has happened,” he said.

Authorities identified the victims as Michael Phillips, 68; and his wife, Robbie Phillips, 65, of Tennessee; and Vincent Chiarella, 64, of Florida. Chiarella’s wife, Donnis Chiarella, 65, was airlifted to a Miami-area hospital in serious condition. The Phillipses were travel agents who had visited many Sandals resorts, according to the website of Robbie Phillips’s travel company. The Chiarellas were reportedly celebrating their anniversary.

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The case has grabbed headlines around the globe, fueling speculation and drawing attention to the luxury vacation destination, with its turquoise waters and serene beaches. A State Department spokesperson said the agency is monitoring the investigation.

Bahamas Minister of Health and Wellness Michael Darville told the Eyewitness News outlet that medical and environmental workers traveled to the scene to ensure that they were not facing a public health problem.

“We thought we might have to make a makeshift facility, a mini-hospital; that’s proving to be not the case,” he said. “We believe it’s an isolated situation that revolves around the four people that were impacted.”

Police said in a statement that they arrived at the resort about 9 a.m. Friday after a staff member reported finding a man unresponsive in a villa. While on their way, officers learned that another couple was unresponsive in a second villa. In the first, they found a man lying on the ground in a bedroom. In the second, a man slumped against a bathroom wall and a woman lying in bed; the two showed signs of convulsion.

A doctor pronounced the Phillipses and Vincent Chiarella dead, police said. Donnis Chiarella was taken to a hospital in New Providence before being flown to Florida for treatment.

Sandals confirmed the deaths in a statement and said its employees followed protocols in alerting authorities after a “health emergency” was reported. The company declined to go into further detail about the incident.

Austin Chiarella told ABC News that his parents were celebrating their anniversary at the resort. He said he had a phone call with his mother Saturday.

Donnis Chiarella told her son she had become sick Thursday but “thought she was all right” after she left the clinic. She and her husband returned to their villa and went to sleep.

“She woke up and my dad was laying there on the floor, and she couldn’t move,” their son told ABC News. “Her legs and arms was swollen and she couldn’t move and she screamed to get someone to come in the door.”

Austin Chiarella, whom The Washington Post could not reach on Monday, told ABC that he was “just so heartbroken right now,” adding that “my dad was everything to me.”

The other couple, travel agents Michael and Robbie Phillips, were familiar with the Sandals chain and booked trips at its all-inclusive resorts for clients celebrating weddings and honeymoons.

On the website of her agency, the Sand Lady, Robbie Phillips said the company had won recognition from Sandals and “personally visited each of the resorts we sell.” She described herself as a certified Sandals specialist, preferred Sandals agent and member of the elite Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club. She and her husband had three children and six grandchildren, according to the website.

In a final Facebook post on Thursday, she shared beach photos from Sandals Emerald Bay and wrote of the “clear blue water” and “seagulls talking.”


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