Local woman’s death in the Dominican Republic raising questions

WGN Investigates

Her death is a mystery, according to her family. 

Galina Isayeva was 53-years-old and had no health issues. So, what led her to collapse and die in late April while on vacation in the Dominican Republic?

“There are some doubts in our mind that a person with no prior condition could rapidly succumb to something like that,” her husband Gene tells WGN Investigates.

She’s not the first seemingly healthy, middle-aged tourist to die unexpectedly in the Caribbean country. National media outlets have reported in recent years on the sudden deaths of other Americans.

Some suspect tainted alcohol or exposure to dangerous pesticides may be the cause.

But no direct link has been determined. The FBI looked into the deaths of three tourists who mysteriously died in 2019.  

It concluded there was no foul play or physical violence, and found nothing to disprove the results of Dominican autopsies that ruled all three died of natural causes.

Still, news of the deaths dealt a devastating blow to the Dominican’s tourism industry. 

“When these reports started coming out, pretty much in June of 2019, the country did take a hit following that,” says Lauren Duffy, a tourism industry expert and associate professor at Clemson University.

In Galina’s case, an autopsy performed in the Dominican Republic listed causes of death, including pulmonary edema or a build-up of fluid in the lungs.

Her family hopes toxicology tests from that autopsy and a second one, performed in the U.S., may shed some light on what happened. But the results from both are still pending.

Galina’s husband and daughter acknowledge they may never know why she died that morning. Whether it was truly natural causes or something else played a role.

But they say they feel they owe it to her and her memory to not give up.

 “I know [Galina] would be very upset if this happened to anybody else,” her daughter Juliana says.

A spokeswoman for the hotel chain had no comment. Messages left with the Dominican Republic consulate in Chicago were not returned.

Back in 2019, in response to news reports about the deaths of American tourists, Dominican government officials publicly defended the country’s response and its safety procedures.

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