Police are investigating whether bootleg liquor is behind the deaths of 7 tourists in the Dominican Republic. Cops believe the tourists may have consumed poisoned liquor from the minibars in their hotel rooms.
Investigators want to know who supplied the liquor stored in small refrigerators in the hotel rooms where 7 tourists died over the past year.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other international agencies have conducted extensive tests on the swimming pools, jacuzzis, air conditioning units, food areas and minibars at two Bahia Principe resort hotels where three tourists died, said the Dominican Ministry of Public Health.
Blood samples were collected from the deceased and shipped to the FBI research laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, the NY Post reports.
Most of the victims died from natural causes according to the medical examiner in the Dominican Republic. But the families say their loved ones were healthy.
Other victims fell ill after consuming drinks from the minibars in their rooms. The victims described symptoms similar to methanol poisoning - disorientation, confusion, headache, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and a specific odor on the breath.
Methanol is a tasteless, odorless methyl alcohol that is found in antifreeze and windshield washer fluid. It is potentially deadly to humans. As little as 1 tablespoon of methanol can kill a man. Ingestion of small amounts of methanol can lead to blindness, brain damage, kidney failure and death from cardiac arrest.
Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, told the NY Post the deaths could be caused by tainted alcohol.
"Adulterated alcohol is usually methanol added to alcohol or just plain methanol, which is very, very toxic," Kobilinsky said.
"It looks to me, from what I've heard and read, is that something was added to the drinks or bottles in those little refrigerators.
"There should be no methanol at all" in the liquor, Kobilinsky said. "If it's there, it means it's been ... put there deliberately."
But Hard Rock hotel bartender Angel Santana, 43, said allegations of poisoning are "not possible."
"I have been working here for nine years, and everything here has always been very safe," he said.
The hotel also said it buys only "unopened products from licensed and reputable vendors."
But bottles of vodka in the minibars are on tap which means the bottles were opened before being placed inside the refrigerators.
The U.S. State Department issued travel advisories warning Americans to avoid consuming mixed drinks or cocktails from the hotel bars in developing countries.
Tourists are also cautioned to only buy liquor in sealed bottles or cans and that labels on bottles may not accurately reflect the contents inside.