Things That Matter

UPDATE: Eighth American Dies In The Dominican Republic And Families Are Pressuring The US Government To Demand Answers

Leyla Cox / Facebook

Leyla Cox, 55, will be the second American tourist whose body was found in their hotel room in just three days. Joseph E. Allen III, a New Jersey tourist, was found dead on June 13 after feeling sick the night before. Leyla Cox was found on June 10 in Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana.

A forensic report obtained by the hotel reveals that Cox died of a heart attack. Officials say the country is “no less safe than it was before,” according to a CNN report.

Leyla Cox’s family is reluctant to accept the country’s autopsy report.

@OstapiukJ / Twitter

Cox was visiting the Dominican Republic to celebrate her birthday and planned to be back in New York within a week. Her son, William Cox, told ABC 7 News that, “it’s been a non-stop nightmare ever since I got that phone call.”

Dominican officials are calling the deaths isolated events.

@rodrigmarchena / Twitter

“In the last five years, over 30 million tourists have visited the Dominican Republic, but this is the first time the international media report such an alarming situation,” Tourism Minister Francisco Javier Garcia responded. “These are isolated incidents and the Dominican Republic is a safe destination.”

But people don’t want to hear the same lines. They want answers.

@diegoarisot / Twitter

“These tweets against the negative reports from The New York Times and FOX News serve nothing,” reads the tweet. “Clarify the deaths and let the world know, starting with your said means.”

Authorities continue to state the same stances–these are isolated incidents. Americans are growing more and more frustrated with the lack of local investigations into the matter.

The family of Joseph E. Allen III, found in his hotel room on June 13th, won’t stop searching for answers.

@essence / Twitter

Joe’s family has been told that Joe started feeling sick on Wednesday night. He felt like he had a fever, and decided to skip going out with his friends to take a cold shower and rest. By Thursday morning, his friends were worried that he wasn’t answering his hotel phone. They asked the hotel staff to let them into his room, where his body was found in rigor mortis.

Joe’s only son arrived a couple of hours later for a scheduled celebration of Father’s Day.

@ArubaRuthnell / Twitter

He didn’t find out his dad had passed until after he landed. Joe’s brother, Jason, told Essence that once Joe’s son “got there that they were performing an autopsy on my brother without any consent and [my nephew] was told that it was the law of the land.”

The family has penned New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez to demand justice for Joe.

@SenatorMenendez / Twitter

“My family and I are afraid that my brother was a victim of a wrongful death,” Jason wrote. “Being aware of the recent number of mysterious deaths occurring in the Dominican Republic, we immediately attempted to contact the U.S. Embassy…for answers and seeking any help they could offer in getting an investigation started with an autopsy done back in the United States.”

On May 30, a couple was found dead in their hotel room.

@JesusComing2033 / Twitter

Edward Nathaniel Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, were found in their rooms at the Bahia Principe La Romana Resort. They both had internal bleeding and damage to their pancreases. Holmes was reported by authorities to have an enlarged heart and cirrhosis of the liver–significant signs of a pre-existing, dangerous condition.

The New York Post reports that they collapsed and died after drinking from the minibar.

In April, a California man reportedly died after drinking from his hotel minibar.

Robert Wallace, 67, died in his Hard Rock Hotel room. After having scotch from the minibar, he started experiencing blood in his urine and stool immediately afterward.

The FBI is now investigating the cause of these deaths–suspected to be poisoning.

@nypost / Twitter

Many of the official reports of death have not been released to the public just yet, and families are feeling frustrated. Not a single toxicology report, which would indicate poisoning, has been released.

There are no travel advisories for Americans regarding the Dominican Republic just yet.

@jayracruzz / Twitter

Though many Americans are taking to Twitter to announce their plan to avoid the DR until more information is released. Others are making sure that the world knows: “Dominican Republic is not bad.”

READ: This Dominican Republic Hotel Just Claimed Its 6th Victim And Experts Think The Mini Bar Is To Blame

Update: The Country Music Star Who Passed Away Yesterday Might Have Been Drunk Driving When She Fatally Hit A Latina Teen

Entertainment

Update: The Country Music Star Who Passed Away Yesterday Might Have Been Drunk Driving When She Fatally Hit A Latina Teen

News broke earlier today that a high school student was also killed in the fatal car crash that resulted in the death of country singer Kylie Rae Harris, 30. The three-vehicle crash, which happened on Wednesday night in Taos, New Mexico, resulted in the fatal death of the 16-year-old high school student named Maria Elena Cruz. 

Cruz was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, San Cristobal Volunteer Fire Deputy Chief Pedro Cruz was among the first responders at the scene of the fatal car crash. 

“At this time I will say with most certainty that Miss Cruz was an innocent victim of this senseless crash caused by Ms. Harris,” said Taos Country Sherriff Jerry Hogrefe in a statement to TaosNews.com

According to PEOPLE magazine, Taos County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that “Harris, who was traveling south on State Road 522 in a black Chevrolet Equinox, struck a black Chevrolet Avalanche from behind, initially sending her vehicle into the northbound traffic lane. Harris’ vehicle then collided head-on with Cruz’s white 2008 Jeep which was traveling north on SR 522 at the time.” 

Both drivers were also pronounced dead at the scene and PEOPLE reports that authorities said speeding appears to be one of the reasons for the fatal car crash. According to Daily Mail, police said alcohol was also a factor in the fatal accident although they have not yet revealed which driver had been drinking. The third driver “escaped uninjured and has not been identified.” Investigators are waiting for the results of a pending toxicology report to determine the alcohol levels of those involved. 

In an exclusive report by Daily Mail, it was revealed that country singer Harris had multiple citations for drunk driving and speeding as well. She had a court-ordered breathalyzer installed in her car, so there is speculation as to who used the breathalyzer in order to start the car and/or keep driving. Court records obtained by Daily Mail also show that she was convicted in June 2017 of driving while intoxicated and that she was fined over $400 for the offense. Years prior, in 2014, Daily Mail also reveals that she was fined another $302 for speeding in Dallas, Texas. 

The Taos community in New Mexico is mourning the loss of the high school teenager, Maria Elena Cruz. She was a Taos High School sophomore from San Cristóbal and the daughter of a deputy chief that responded to the crash. 

Students and faculty from the high school are also in shock.

Taos County Fire Chief Mike Cordova told TaosNews.com in an email that Deputy Chief Pedro Cruz and his family are “reeling” and “at home mourning her loss.” He also said that they’re asking for people and the community to give the family some time and space for the next couple of days. 

However, if community members want to help the family financially then they can drop off donations at the Taos County Fire and EMS office. More information on that here. The Taos community also planned a dinner to raise funds to help the Cruz family with funeral costs on Friday, September 6 at the San Cristóbal Community Center. You can donate to Maria Elena Cruz’s GoFundMe here, to help her family pay for funeral costs. 

According to one of her former teachers, Maria Elena Cruz was “beautiful, intelligent, kind, hard-working, and inspirational. Her tragic death has impacted many young lives, former teachers, her beloved parents, and little sister.”

Kylie Rae Harris’s mother, Betsy Cowan, released a statement on her Facebook on Thursday, announcing the church memorial service planned for next week.

“Needless to say, we have a huge hole in our hearts right now. We know our Kylie made a big impact on those around her, but I don’t think we could have fathomed how many people truly loved and cherished her,” her mother wrote in the same Facebook post according to Daily Mail. 

Her memorial service is planned for Wednesday, September 11, in her home town. There are also a couple of donation pages going around to raise benefits for the singer’s daughter and her family. 

Harris’s mother also wrote, “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the 16-year-old girl who also died on the scene of the accident last night in Taos.”  

Before the fatal crash, the country singer posted an emotional Instagram video telling fans about how “literally everyone” in her family had died in Taos, New Mexico. She also tweeted hours before the crash saying that she was driving and almost out of fuel. The singer was scheduled to perform in a festival in New Mexico, where the crash occurred.  

Kylie Rae Harris leaves behind her six-year-old daughter Corbie. 

A 20-Year-Old Slips And Drowns On A Party Boat In A Mexico City Canal

Things That Matter

A 20-Year-Old Slips And Drowns On A Party Boat In A Mexico City Canal

There is heartbreaking news out of the town of Xochimilco in Mexico City where a young man fell off a party boat on Sunday and drowned. Local authorities found the body of José Manuel Romero Reyes, 20, the next day after several hours of searching for the body. According to police, Romero Reyes was partying with some friends for a birthday party on Sunday along the famous and very popular San Cristóbal canal near the Zacapa jetty. The area is a popular tourist attraction as it was originally configured by the ancient Aztecs.

The story went viral on social media as a person captured the exact moment that Romero Reyes fell into the canal. The footage shows a vibrant scene of young people partying in the San Cristóbal canal.

Grainy cell phone footage, captured by a person at the party, shows the moment Romero Reyes, wearing a white t-shirt and fedora hat, fell into the canal. In the video, you can see the young man trying to hop from one boat to another. Another male friend is seen moving from the gondola-like boats as Romero Reyes followed him but didn’t have enough footing and ultimately fell into the dark brown waters. It would take a few seconds for anyone to notice that he was drowning in the water until he suddenly couldn’t be seen due to the dark murky water. 

Within moments, the boat party comes to a halt as people start to realize that someone is drowning. Video shows a frantic scene as multiple people begin reaching into the ancient canal with long wooden sticks attempting to find and save Romero Reyes. Friends began throwing ropes into the canal but there was no sign of him after he fell into the water during the video. 

Now many are looking for answers as to how this young man could have just suddenly drowned with so many people nearby. As of now, police have yet to determine if alcohol was the main factor behind the drowning.

Credit: @retodiariomx / Twitter

According to the local authorities, dozens of beer bottles and other intoxicating drinks, including at least 30 beer cans and multiple empty bottles of rum and whiskey, were found aboard the boats where these young people were partying. Police say there was a heavy presence of alcohol at the scene but have yet to determine if it was a contributing factor to Romero Reyes’s death. 

Local television news in Mexico highlighted the search for Romero Reyes’s body along the canal as authorities stepped up efforts to locate him. A police search team would eventually find Romero Reyes’ body on early Monday morning at approximately 6 a.m.  

The untimely death of the young man has already prompted local officials to make some changes to prevent this accident from ever happening again. According to the Daily Mail,  Xochimilco mayor Juan Carlos Acosta Ruíz made some announcements concerning the safety of people along the historic canals. Starting on Oct. 1, visitors on the canals who board the gondolas will be required to wear a life jacket to ensure their safety on the water. If a person chooses not to wear one, they will then be required to sign a waiver form.

Mayor Ruíz has also made some new adjustments to alcohol laws while on the gondolas. Customers will now be limited to bring only three beers and a liter of liquor when boarding the boats. But when it comes to Micheladas, the popular drink made up of beer and tomato juice, it will now be banned on the canals.  

Friends and family are now reflecting and remembering the life of Romero Reyes as he is laid to rest. 

Credit: @jcarlos-valerio / Twitter

Romero Reyes is currently being veiled in the town of Santa María Nenetzintla, belonging to the municipality of Acajete. His body arrived at the small town just a day after his body was found. Family and friends are now gathering to say their farewells and remembering a life that was tragically taken away way too soon.  

There is expected to an open mass on Wednesday morning where his body will be presented at a local church. His body will then be transferred to a cemetery where it will be buried. Our thoughts and prayers are currently with the family and friends of Romero Reyes. 

READ: Cartels Are Targeting Migrants Forced To Stay In Mexico Under Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy