Families of three American tourists who died while on vacation at the luxury Sandals Emerald Bay resort in the Bahamas have asked for investigators to allow a pathologist from the U.S. to perform a second autopsy on the bodies.
Michael and Robbie Phillips, aged 68 and 65 from Tennessee together with Vincent Chiarella, 64, from Florida, were all found dead on May 6 inside neighboring villas at the resort on Great Exuma Island. The trio were not traveling together.
Vincent’s 65-year-old wife, Donnis, is said to be in good condition and recovering nicely at a hospital in Miami.
Frustration has been building as relatives appear to have been left in the dark as to what may have caused their untimely deaths.
‘The toxicology reports are still outstanding. There were requests by family members of the deceased to bring in a pathologist from abroad to do another autopsy,’ Bahamas Minister of Health and Wellness Michael Darville explained to Eyewitness News Bahamas.
A second autopsy will now be carried out by an American pathologist looking into the deaths of three Americans at a luxury resort in the Bahamas
Michael and Robbie Phillips, aged 68 and 65 from Tennessee, died at the resort earlier in May
Families of three American tourists who died while on vacation at the luxury Sandals Emerald Bay resort in the Bahamas have asked for investigators to allow a pathologist from the U.S. to perform a second autopsy on the bodies. Michael and Robbie Phillips are pictured
The government has agreed for a second pathologist to come to the islands to assist with the case with Darville keen to ‘get to the bottom’ of the investigation.
‘They’re still some investigations ongoing at the Sandals resort. We also have the pathologists in-country who have done their job and samples were sent to a very reliable lab in the United States,’ Darville explained.
As of Wednesday, it remains unclear how the three tourists died at the property.
The website reported that the government will facilitate the request, as Darville wants to ‘get to the bottom’ of the investigation.
‘You know, to move bodies across water, they have to be embalmed and so, that request was made.
‘I do not know exactly how far it has gone, but we are willing to assist anyone who wants to get to the bottom of their loved ones [death]. And so, those requests are being entertained. I’m not sure exactly where they are at this point.’
Bahamas Police Commissioner Paul Rolle is in the process of arranging interviews with people based in the U.S. who claim to have information that may help with unravelling the mystery.
The resort has made no further comment on the death of their guests than what had been stated earlier this month.
‘Nothing is more important to Sandals Resorts than the safety of our guests’, and ‘It is with deep sadness that we can confirm the passing of three guests at Sandals Emerald Bay on May 6, 2022’, the resort said in a statement.
Michael Phillips, 68, left, and his wife, Robbie Phillips, 65, of Tennessee died earlier this month. They are pictured on another vacation in September
Vincent Chiarella is pictured with his wife Donnis at Sandals in the Bahamas just days before he died and she was left seriously ill. Her condition is now improving in hospital in Miami
Last week, guests complained about a ‘strong odor’ of insecticide in the area. Meanwhile police were investigating if food may have played a role in the deaths.
‘They were all treated at different times and they ate at different places, so… we’re checking all of that, which we will hopefully be able to determine whether or not it was some food or something else that caused it,’ Paul Rolle explained.
Samples from all three victims were taken to a lab in Philadelphia and will make up a toxicology report, the results of which are yet to be released.
Several recent reviewers on TripAdvisor reported seeing bugs in their rooms and one guest speculated that issues with the air conditioning may have caused Freon poisoning.
All three had reportedly sought medical treatment while staying at the Sandals, the Nassau Guardian reported.
A spokesperson for Sandals would not comment on the possibility of food poisoning and referred DailyMail.com to an earlier statement.
One day before her death, Robbie posted pictures of the beach to her Facebook as she apparently tried to sell others on the idea of the resort
Reviews on TripAdvisor suggest that the resort has gone into a state of disrepair recently.
Michael T. wrote a review May 8, days after the incident and said that he had booked a trip to the resort after enjoying himself last year.
The second trip, however, was markedly different.
‘What we experienced is a resort in a state of disrepair and drastically under staffed,’ Michael wrote. ‘Air conditioning, plumbing, no towels, employees that were new and poorly trained, and staff that seemed to be over worked. Tragically we had to experience the death of three guests and injury of a fourth. It was very difficult to relax to say the least under these circumstances.’
He added that he ‘can not see myself returning anytime soon’ to the resort.
Reviewer Cameron H. referenced the tragedy and noted that ‘the resort did nothing to comfort their guests or even let them know they are safe.’
They also said the resort needed major renovation and called the food ‘horrible.’
Gabrielle K. referenced having problems with the thermostat, poor service and being unable to close a door due to a jam.
Other reviewers reported finding ‘vomit’ in their bathrooms, being served ‘powdered eggs and cruise ship bacon.’
Reviewers reported finding ‘vomit’ in their bathrooms, being served ‘powdered eggs and cruise ship bacon’
TripAdvisor customers also complained about the resort being in a ‘state of disrepair’
Some even found bugs in their rooms at Sandals Emerald Bay
What is Freon? The toxic chemical found in air conditioners
Air conditioners commonly use a chemical called Freon, which can prove toxic if inhaled, as a refrigerant.
The chemical is a stable, nonflammable, moderately toxic gas that is tasteless and mostly odorless.
Signs of Freon exposure include irritation of the lungs, burns on the esophagus and irritation of the stomach.
Skin lesions and tissue damage are also common symptoms of those experiencing Freon poisoning.
Lung failure or death may occur with prolonged exposure to Freon.
Accidental poisoning from Freon, while rare, usually occurs in persons who work directly with cooling chemicals.
Symptoms of mild to moderate Freon poisoning include:
-irritation of eyes, ears, and throat
Severe Freon poisoning symptoms include:
-loss of consciousness
-bleeding or fluid buildup in the lungs
-burning irregular heartbeat confusion coma or sudden death
The American victims were all said to have suffered from convulsions before their deaths, and when Donnis Chiarella, from Panama, Florida, woke up she found herself paralyzed and her now late husband not moving, the couple’s devastated son Austin Chiarella previously told ABC News.
‘She woke up and my dad was laying there on the floor, and she couldn’t move,’ he said. ‘Her legs and arms was swollen and she couldn’t move and she screamed to get someone to come in the door.’
The stricken son said his mom had first fallen ill one day earlier, and visited a local clinic. She was discharged shortly afterwards, and believed her health had improved.
An initial investigation also found that the Phillips had ‘complained of illness the previous evening,’ cops previously announced, adding that the pair ‘attended the local Medical facility’ where they received treatment, and then returned to their lodging.
Another American vacationer has previously blamed a faulty air conditioner for their deaths.
In a Facebook post, Chris Coucheron-Aamot wrote that: ‘Three of our neighbors in the building right next to us died and a fourth was airlifted in critical condition.
The post, which seemed to be penned by Coucheron-Aamot’s partner, describes a crime scene at the resort’s luxury beachside villas where the bodies of the guests were discovered by hotel personnel.
He added: ‘There was crime scene tape and security guards all around our unit,’ the post from Coucheron-Aamot, who was staying in the same villas as the stricken guests, reads.
In the post, Coucheron-Aamot – who said he was continuing his vacation at the resort despite the deaths – suggested that there may have been issues with some of the villas’ air-condition systems that may have led to the deaths.
‘It sounds like it may have been a fault with the a/c in the unit, causing a toxic coolant leak,’ the post reads.
‘It was hard to sleep last night – every time the a/c came on, I woke up.
‘We’re continuing our vacation because that’s what I would want people to do if I were to have been one who died – celebrate my life by living yours to the fullest. That said, our hearts are with those who grieve. May God have mercy on them and us.’