DOSWELL, Va. — It was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime. Days after their June 8 wedding, Derek and Skylar Martin, of Doswell, Virginia, flew to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon. But their stay was anything but relaxing.
“Before we went down, we had some family and friends a little concerned about everything,” Skylar admitted, “but we felt comfortable and confident enough to go.”
She was referring to the recent spate of tourist deaths reported on the island nation. At least nine American citizens have died in the Dominican Republic over the past year, according to information from the US State Department, victims’ family members and the resorts involved.
A common tie among the deaths has not been established. The investigations into the deaths have included visits from health inspectors, including environmental health and epidemiology specialists, according to Carlos Suero, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health.
The US Embassy in Santo Domingo has said it is “actively working” with Dominican authorities to ensure that American citizens are safe. It said Dominican officials have asked for FBI assistance for further toxicology analysis on the recent Bahia Principe, La Romana cases.
The Martins’ honeymoon took a scary turn after they dined at a Japanese Hibachi spot within their resort last Saturday night.
“[We] went to bed around 10:30 or 11 p.m. and by midnight, woke up violently ill,” Skylar said. “I’ve never felt more physically ill in my entire life, and I’m pretty healthy.”
Skylar said while reports of sickness and death out of the Dominican Republic seem isolated, her experience in the country left her with a different impression.
“After being down there and experiencing what we did and seeing what we did and meeting with so many people going through the same experience, I think we’ve realized this is very not isolated,” she said. “It’s pretty terrifying. Everyone is trying to get out of there right now.”
Derek said once his wife was hospitalized, they no longer felt safe.
“They couldn’t give us any answers as to how Skylar got sick. Where it came from? Was it alcohol? Was it pesticides? Was it food related?” he said. “They didn’t have any answers for us, so we didn’t feel safe staying at the resort. They didn’t have any answers for us, so we decided to come back after two and a half days.”
The couple is now back in the United States and continuing their honeymoon closer to home — at the Chesapeake Bay.
“We’re going to go do some of our own grocery shopping,” Skylar said. “Buy some Saltines, just in case!”
I’ve already booked a trip there. Should I still go?
The bottom line: The State Department has not issued a travel warning about trips to the Dominican Republic.
Because of crime in the country the Dominican Republic is under a Level 2 travel advisory, which means to exercise increased caution.
Matthew Bradley, a regional security director for the risk management firm International SOS, said that the Dominican Republic is still a safe destination.
“These incidents, while recent, in my mind don’t indicate Dominican Republic is any less safe than it was before,” Bradley said. “I would tell people to continue with trips.”
If travelers do decide to go on with their trip, Robert Quigley, senior vice president and regional medical director for International SOS, said they should visit a doctor before their trip, “especially if they might have a chronic medical condition or cardiovascular disease.” He said sleep deprivation and stress can “exacerbate underlying, and sometimes asymptomatic, serious cardiovascular diseases.”
Watch Jake Burns’ interview with Derek and Skylar Martin ahead on CBS 6 News at 5.
CNN Wire contributed to this report.