SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – A Long Island pizzeria proprietor has reportedly become the 12th known case of an American traveller who has died in the Dominican Republic under mysterious conditions in the year – as one of the resorts at the centre of the mystery decides to remove liquor dispensers in response to the spate of deaths.

Vittorio Caruso, 56, of Glen Cove, died on June 17 soon after he reportedly drank something and became critically unwell at the Boca Chica Resort in Santo Domingo. The State Department confirmed Caruso’s death to reporters.

Lisa Maria Caruso, Caruso’s sister-in-law, told reporters that Vittorio was in good health. He co-owned a pizzeria with his brother until a month ago. She said he visited the Dominican Republic alone.

‘We found out he was brought by ambulance to the hospital in respiratory distress after drinking something,’ Caruso said. ‘We were told he was not responding to any meds he was given and died.

Caruso told reporters that Dominican officials wanted to cremate the body, but the family declined, declaring it wants a post-mortem.

In response to the uncanny spate of deaths, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana stated that it would remove liquor dispensers from minibars in hotel rooms.

Hotel management also stated that it had appointed an American-based health care firm to inspect the resort to ‘ensure the on-site health clinic is complying with all international and US standards.’

Two of the 12 American tourists who died suddenly in the Dominican Republic in the last year were guests at the Hard Rock in Punta Cana.

Earlier on Saturday, it was discovered that a retired police officer from Ohio became the 11th American visitor to die suddenly in the Dominican Republic.

Jerry Curran, a 78-year-old who had worked for 32 years with the Bedford Police Department before working as a bailiff, died in January while staying at the Dreams Resort in Punta Cana.

Curran began vomiting and was unresponsive, three days after he and his wife Janet arrived at the resort on January 22. Curran was rushed to surgery but died hours later.

Kellie, along with sisters Jackie Sikes and Kim Pidala, have been attempting to learn the cause of their father’s death after discovering of other American tourists in the news.

Kellie was upset when she got a phone call notifying her of her father’s medical predicaments around 3 am on Friday.

‘Your father needs surgery, or he’s going to die and they need $50,000. You need to send it with a copy of your passport, the front and back of your debit card and an authorisation stating that you would allow them to withdraw $50,000,’ Kellie said.

Kellie sent $40,000 while her mother put $10,000 on a credit card.

For the sisters, the time of death that the hospital and US embassy put is just one red flag that they have noticed. The time put was 11 am on January 26 but Kellie asserts she got the call several hours beforehand.

Concerns are also raised over the cause of death. ‘One of them is pulmonary oedema which seems to be common in everyone else who’s passed that we’re learning about,’ Kellie added. Also listed were Cerebral hypoxia, severe encephalitic cranial trauma and subdural hematoma.

Doctors asserted that the pulmonary oedema was ‘scant’ and not enough of a reason to be a primary cause of death. The brain trauma was also suspicious.

Kellie stated, ‘He never complained of hitting his head or falling.’ However, Kellie confirmed that Jerry was taking blood thinners, which could have affected his well-being.

The sisters intend to convey their father’s medical records to doctors in the US. Kellie revealed that she has also talked with the FBI.

She emphasised the significance of obtaining medical insurance when travelling. Jerry’s insurance did ultimately return the funds Kellie and her funds spent but sent the check in the retired officer’s name. They are trying to have that corrected.

In a statement to the media, Dreams Resort mentioned tourism minister Francisco Javier García’s assertion that the recent deaths could all be connected to natural causes.

Tourism minister Francisco Javier García told journalists that post-mortems for the deaths reveal the tourists died of natural causes. He said five of the post-mortems are finished and three are undergoing additional toxicological analysis with the assistance from the FBI because of the circumstances of the deaths.

With approximately 3.2 million US visitors travelling to the Dominican Republic in 2018, García stated, it is not uncommon for eight persons to die while on holiday over any six months.