(NBC NEWS) – The son of a New York City woman who died celebrating her birthday amid a spate of reported illnesses and deaths in the Dominican Republic is blaming the Caribbean country for her death.
Leyla Cox, 53, an MRI technician from Staten Island, was staying at the Excellence resort in Punta Cana when she died Tuesday, just a day after her birthday, according to her son.
Leyla Cox had been to Punta Cana twice before at the same hotel and was excited to celebrate her birthday there, Will Cox told NBC’s “Nightly News.” He said that he tried to warn his mother about the recent string of deaths on the island, but she left before he had a chance.
“And then, on June 11th, my worst fears came true. She was pronounced dead,” he said Friday.
The family still doesn’t know Leyla Cox’s cause of death and have not had the chance to mourn properly as her remains still haven’t been returned home, according to her son.
“The Dominican Republic has put every roadblock in my way to prevent me from finding the answers that I need to sleep at night,” Will Cox said. “It keeps me up at night knowing that my mother’s remains belongs to a foreign country.”
Will Cox claims that a representative for the U.S. Embassy told him that a toxicology test would not be conducted on his mother’s body due to broken machines.
“She was at no risk for a heart attack and I truly believe in some way, shape or form, the Dominican Republic is responsible for my mother’s death,” he said. “If she would’ve went anywhere else in the world, she’d be alive today. “
Leyla Cox’s death was reported as another family said that their loved one died in the Dominican Republic in January.
Jerry Curran, 78, checked into the Dreams resort in Punta Cana on Jan. 22, and died three days later, his daughter, Kellie Brown, told NBC affiliate WKYC in Ohio. The State Department confirmed Friday that an American died in the Dominican Republic in January.
“He went to the Dominican Republic healthy and he just never came back,” Brown said.
Authorities told the family that one of Curran’s causes of death was pulmonary edema, “which seems to be common in everyone else who’s passed that we’re learning about,” Brown said.
In May, Miranda Schaup-Werner and a couple, Nathaniel Edward Holmes and Cynthia Ann Day, died over a five-day period at the Bahia Principe resort in La Romana.
Holmes and Day were found dead in their room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana. Pulmonary edema — excess fluid in the lungs — was listed among the causes of death for the couple in preliminary reports.
Schaup-Werner, 41, and her husband checked into their room at the neighboring Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville on May 25, and after having a drink from the minibar, she fell ill, according to the resort and her family. She died a short time later.
The FBI, which is investigating the three deaths, said further toxicology results on the Americans could take up to 30 days.
Since news of the deaths was reported, families have shared similar stories of their relatives mysteriously dying while staying at resorts in the Dominican Republic.
At least two died after taking a drink from minibars, families said.
At least half a dozen people have reported abruptly falling ill while staying at resorts in the Dominican Republic. All of them said they stayed at Bahia Principe properties. At least one reported drinking from the minibar before getting sick.
A statement from Bahia Principe Resorts released Friday said, “We completely disagree with the dissemination of false information issued publicly which threatens the image and reputation of the company and the integrity and rights of our employees and their families, reserving, where necessary, the right to take appropriate legal action.”
The statement didn’t say which information hotel officials considered false, and added that the resort is cooperating with authorities’ investigations.
Neither the Excellence resort nor the Dreams resort immediately responded to requests for comment Friday