By JADE RUSSELL
EXUMA’S tourism numbers remain strong despite the tragic deaths of three American tourists in May at Sandals Emerald Bay Resort.
Acting Prime Minister Chester Cooper told reporters yesterday that there had been no significant changes on the island as a result of the deaths of guests Vincent Paul Chiarella and married couple Michael and Robbie Phillips more than a month ago at Sandals.
The minister explained ahead of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting: “There has been no impact otherwise in the island of Exuma, our numbers are looking very strong. I had lunch yesterday at the Sandals resort. It’s buzzing with activity. I’ve spoken with management and they indicate that their occupancy levels are increasing.”
Mr Cooper added that he observed employees being in high spirits along with tourists at the Sandals resort and other properties in Exuma.
Earlier, a source with intimate knowledge of the deaths, confirmed to The Tribune that the cause of death of three of the four guests was found to be carbon monoxide poisoning.
While the Exuma and Ragged Island MP did not specifically mention what may have caused the deaths, he said: “The family is aware of the cause of death as a result of the investigation, as a result of the coroner’s assessment and the other toxicology report.”
Mr Cooper said officials took care to handle the situation sensitively and to ensure that before the reports were made public the family had been properly informed.
Last month, the sudden deaths of the three Americans struck waves in the media locally and internationally. The two couples had occupied separate villas.
There was much speculation on how the victims’ vacation had ended in tragedy.
The couple and the Chiarellas were found in two separate villas at Sandals on May 6.
Donnis Chiarella, wife of Paul, was the lone survivor in their villa. However, both husband and wife died in the second villa.
Officials said the two men and one woman died sometime between 11pm on May 5 and 8.30am to 9am on May 6. Before their deaths, the victims reportedly visited the local clinic seeking medical attention for symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
The minister has said he cannot confirm when the official reports will be released to the public.
“It is my view though that it is an issue of public interest, it’s an interest in the international media and it ought to be released, that’s my position,” Mr Cooper said.
When asked if there was an update on the autopsy report, Mr Cooper told reporters he cannot confirm if the coroner report was released to the families of the victims.
He also said Sandals would be in a better position to answer questions related to whether the victims’ families intend to take legal action.