Bahamas Sends Samples to US Lab to Help Solve Mysterious Deaths of 3 US Tourists

Samples taken from three American tourists who died at a resort in the Bahamas under mysterious circumstances have been sent to a laboratory in the United States to speed up results and help authorities understand what happened, officials said Monday.

Bahamian Police Commissioner Paul Rolle said officials also collected samples from rooms where tourists were staying and surrounding property to determine if any contaminants were present.

“We really want to know what caused this,” he said.

He identified the victims as Michael Phillips, 68, and his wife Robbie Phillips, 65, of Tennessee, and Vincent Paul Chiarella, 64, of Florida. Rolle declined to provide his place of origin.

Chiarella’s wife, Donnis, was airlifted to a hospital in Florida and remains in serious condition, Rolle said.

Their bodies were found Friday morning at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort on Exuma, where the couples had been staying in two separate villas.

The samples were sent to a lab in Philadelphia, with toxicology study results expected in about a week, Rolle said. She noted that the Bahamas Department of Environmental Health and police officers are still at the complex.

Asked what he thinks may have caused the tourists’ deaths, Rolle said: “I’m not going to speculate.”

“It’s certainly very irregular,” said CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus.

As a general rule, Agus said it’s important to have access to your health records when traveling and to listen to your body.

“If you start feeling bad and it doesn’t get better, then you go to an ER wherever you are.” Agus said. “If a treatment doesn’t work, go back to that ER.”

He noted that the four tourists had gone to the doctor the night before their bodies were discovered and had complained of feeling ill. He said that they went at different times and had eaten different things.

Meanwhile, Sandals Resorts said it would not comment beyond its original statement, which said it is supporting the investigation and the families of those affected.

“Out of respect for the privacy of our guests, we are unable to disclose any further information at this time,” the company said.

The deaths come seven years after a Delaware family got seriously ill at a resort in the US Virgin Islands. US authorities determined that methyl bromide, a highly toxic pesticide banned for indoor residential use in 1984, was the culprit and had been used at that resort multiple times.

Sandals Emerald Bay Celebrity Golf Weekend - Golf & Pool Party Combinations
A general view during the Sandals Emerald Bay Celebrity Golf Weekend at Sandals Emerald Bay Resort on April 9, 2010 in Great Exuma Island, Bahamas.

Dimitrios Kambouris via Getty


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