Frustrated family of N.J. man who died in the Dominican Republic awaits his body - and answers
On Wednesday afternoon, the family of 53-year-old Joseph Allen learned that he died of a suspected heart attack at a resort in the Dominican Republic, and his sudden passing occurred under similar, suspicious circumstances to nine other Americans on the Caribbean island since last summer.
On the evening of June 13, Allen, of Woodbridge’s Avenel neighborhood, felt he had a slight fever and told his friends with whom he was vacationing with that he was going to stay in for the night, according to his brother Jason Allen, of Summit.
Joseph Allen was a dispatcher for an electrical company and regularly worked long shifts, so him sleeping for longer amounts of time was not unusual, his brother said. The next morning, resort staff discovered Joseph Allen dead in his room.
“If it was cardiac arrest we want to know what caused it, we don’t have those answers,” Jason Allen said Wednesday. He said his brother had recently underwent a physical, and worked out with a trainer.
Just a few days prior to his death, Jason Allen said he texted his brother a link to a story about retired Red Sox player David Ortiz being shot on the island - Ortiz is a native Dominican - and told his brother to be careful. Now he’s dead.
"If something is in the food, fix the food, if something in the drinks, fix the drinks, but they have to figure this out,” said Jason Allen. “There’s got to be a better way to handle that. We just are not trusting of the place where he died.”
Allen’s death on Wednesday led Allen’s congressman, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., (D-6th Dist.) to write to the State Department and FBI.
Pallone wants grieving families to receive timely updates during the ongoing investigation and for State officials to reassess the travel advisory for the Dominican Republic.
“The circumstances surrounding the untimely deaths of nine Americans is heartbreaking, and I ask that you immediately take steps to update the bereaved families and ensure they are given all information on the cause of their loved one’s death as the investigation continues," Pallone said in the letter.
Joseph Allen’s 23-year-old son had plans to join his father in the Dominican Republic over Father’s Day weekend, and shortly after arriving, learned he'd died.
Jason Allen says Joseph Allen’s son was pressured by a funeral home on the island to sign a form to embalm his father’s body or it would not be transported home, Jason Allen said.
Now, the family is trying to learn why Joseph Allen’s son was told he needed to approve the embalming of the body, which they learned was not necessary, and they also want to know the results of the toxicology report, and when exactly Joseph Allen’s body will be coming back to New Jersey.
Joseph Allen was a Muslim, and Jason Allen said they have plans for his brother’s body to be received at a funeral home in Irvington.
“Nine people is not a coincidence and nine people is a small number of people but those nine people mean something to a lot of people,” Jason Allen said. “We are looking for some government agency to establish an investigation into his death."
Since June 2018, at least nine American tourists have passed away in the Dominican Republican after experiencing heart attacks along with symptoms consistent with pulmonary edema, bleeding, and vomiting blood. In addition, several American tourists contracted life-threatening illnesses and survived, Pallone said in the letter.
Most of the deaths are concentrated around the resorts in the Punta Cana area on the east coast.
Allen, however, was 250 miles from Punta Cana, at the Terra Linda Resort in Sosua.
Real estate mogul and Shark Tank television show star Barbara Corcoran revealed her brother, Edgewater business owner John Corcoran, 60, was found dead in his Dominican Republic hotel room in April. She was told he died from a heart attack, though no autopsy was performed.
In a statement last week, United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Robin Bernstein said Dominican authorities have asked for help from the FBI to conduct further toxicology analysis in some of the cases.