Sole survivor, Donnis Chiarealla, says she awoke and could not move
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With speculation mounting on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of three Americans at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort on Exuma last Friday, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Michael Darville said the multi-agency team investigating the deaths “have a theory”.
However, Darville said he did not wish to allude to those specifics until their findings were conclusive.
There’s a few scenarios that we’re looking into, but I could say this much, it appears to be an isolated case, affiliated and associated with the four people who are – DR MICHAEL DARVILLE
Eyewitness News traveled to Exuma on Saturday and spoke exclusively with the minister minutes before he boarded a flight to New Providence with a portion of the emergency health team.
“Our investigations were up to late last night and we feel that what we are seeing is an isolated case associated in a particular area,” Darville said.
“And so, our team is still here to finalize those findings. But as far as we are concerned, as the medical team, our emergency medical team, because we thought we might have to make a makeshift facility, a mini-hospital; that’s proving to be not the case.
“We believe it’s an isolated situation that revolves around the four people that were impacted.”
As to the cause of the deaths, the minister said: “We have some ideas, but of course, we have to do toxicology. We need to do blood samples. And so, I don’t want to preempt myself, with making a statement that cannot be substantiated later on.
“There’s a few scenarios that we’re looking into, but I could say this much, it appears to be an isolated case, affiliated and associated with the four people who are.”
Eyewitness News reported on Friday that a couple was found unresponsive in a villa on the resort’s property.
The night before, the group reported feeling ill and were treated at a local medical facility before discharging themselves.
A man was slumped over on the wall of the bathroom, while the woman was found on the bed. In a second villa, a man, who has since been identified as Alabama resident Vincent Chiarella, 60s, was found lying on the ground dead.
His wife Donnis, the sole survivor, was airlifted to Princess Margaret Hospital on Friday and has since been transferred to the Kendall Regional Facility in Florida in stable condition.
Her son advised that when his mother awoke, she could not move, and her legs and arms were swollen. she reportedly screamed for help, which prompted staff to the room.
Authorities said foul play is not suspected.
Eyewitness News was not permitted on the resort’s property on Saturday.
Attempts to reach the Sandal’s General Manager Jeremy Mutton were unsuccessful, with resort staff advising that he was unavailable.
In a statement Friday, the resort said it working to support the investigation and the families of the guests at “this difficult time”.
A multi-agency team remained on Exuma on Saturday to conclude findings.
When contacted yesterday, Darville said the investigation was ongoing.
Residents on Exuma expressed concern about the incident, noting that while the tragedy could impact the island’s flow of tourism it was hoped that there would be a swift and transparent investigation to provide answers to the public and traveling community.
Similarly, visitors Eyewitness News interviewed said they wished to know what happened so they could be cautious.
United States Embassy Public Affairs Officer Daniel Durazo told Eyewitness News the embassy was working closely with Bahamian authorities to assist the family in “every way we can”.
The embassy also expressed its deepest condolences to the bereaved families mourning the loss.
The same sentiment was expressed by the Bahamian government on Friday.
Yesterday, Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper, the member of Parliament for Exuma, said he had reached out to the families of the American guests.
He also advised that government officials have been collaborating to expedite the identification process and once that takes place, the pathologist can begin identifying the cause of death.
Cooper added that Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who is out of the country in Tennessee, has been apprised of the matter.