In early May, the bodies of three U.S. tourists were found in two separate villas at a Sandals resort in the Bahamas. For two weeks, their deaths had remained a mystery.
Michael Phillips, 68, and his wife Robbie Phillips, 65, from Tennessee, were pronounced dead at the Sandals Emerald Bay all inclusive resort on Great Exuma on Friday, May 6th. The Phillips ran a travel agency. A Floridian, Vincent Paul Chiarella, 64, was also found lifeless in his vacation rental at the same resort, police said.
A fourth American – Chiarella’s 65-year-old wife, Donnis Chiarella – was found with her husband. She was still alive and was airlifted to a hospital in the Bahamian capital but was then transferred to Miami’s Kendall Hospital. She was initially listed in fair condition, and had improved to good condition and was reportedly “recovering well” within a few days.
Their son, Austin Chiarella, told ABC News his mother “woke up and my dad was laying there on the floor, and she couldn’t move. Her legs and arms was swollen and she couldn’t move and she screamed to get someone to come in the door.”
Donnis Chiarella told her son she became ill Thursday but after she was released from a clinic, she “thought she was alright [sic],” according to ABC. The Phillips had also sought medical care the night before they died, but had also appeared improved.
The two couples, who didn’t know each other, had eaten in different restaurants.
“They were seen by the doctor the night before, and that would have been around 11, and they were discovered the next morning. So, we have the timeline … between 11 p.m. and 8:30 to 9 a.m.,” said Royal Bahamas Police Force Commissioner Paul Rolle.
According to CNN,
Resort staff alerted police shortly after 9 a.m. Friday that an unresponsive man had been found in a villa, police said Saturday in a statement. While headed to the scene, police were told another man and woman were found unresponsive in another villa, the release said.
Police entered the first villa’s bedroom, where they found a “Caucasian male lying on the ground unresponsive” with no signs of trauma. A doctor pronounced him dead, police said.
The officers then were directed to the second villa, where they found the second man “slumped against a wall in a bathroom unresponsive.” The woman was “found in a bedroom on a bed,” according to the statement.
“Both showed signs of convulsion,” the release states. Neither showed signs of trauma, and they were also pronounced dead by a doctor.
The resort stayed open after the event, and said the day after the event that it was, “actively working to ‘support both the investigation as well as the guests’ families in every way possible’ but could not disclose further information “out of respect for the privacy of our guests.”
Autopsies were conducted on the 3 Americans, and several samples were collected from the premises and their forensic examination should help determine whether any chemicals were present. A lab in Philadelphia was assisting with the toxicological examinations, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Environmental Health Services flew to the Bahamas immediately following the event.
Although autopsies were done on the 3 in the Bahamas, there was still no cause of death. According to the minister of health and wellness in the Bahamas, the toxicology reports were “still outstanding.” The family members were requesting that a pathologist from abroad be brought in to do another autopsy.
Finally, according to the Nassau Guardian, reports had been submitted and a cause of death was been announced.
Carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to the CDC, carbon monoxide, or “CO,” is an odorless, colorless gas. It’s found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.
Anyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. All three of the victims were in their 60s.
Possible leaks from the air conditioning and the water heater on the Sandals property are being probed.
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