Florida man, wife pictured celebrating anniversary at resort in Bahamas days before he died


A Florida man and his wife have been pictured celebrating their anniversary at a luxury Sandals resort in the Bahamas just days before he died and she became seriously ill.

Vincent Chiarella, 64, a retiree who was living Panama City, Florida, but was originally from Alabama, died Friday morning at Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma while on vacation with his wife Donnis, 64.

He is one of three Americans who died at the resort and there is speculation their deaths could have been caused by faulty air conditioning. 

Hotel staff found Vincent’s body shortly after 9am Friday in his villa and called police. Officers from George Town Police Station arrived on the scene and were informed a couple in another villa had also been found unresponsive and all three were later declared dead.    

All three had sought treatment at a health clinic the night before their deaths. 

Donnis had woken up to find herself paralyzed, and her husband not moving, the couple’s devastated son Austin Chiarella told ABC News. 

Another man and woman – both from America – died, but have yet to be named and all victims are said to have suffered convulsions before their deaths. 

Austin said: ‘She woke up and my dad was laying there on the floor, and she couldn’t move.

‘Her legs and arms was swollen and she couldn’t move and she screamed to get someone to come in the door.’

The son said his mother had first fallen ill on Thursday, and visited a local clinic. She was discharged shortly afterwards, and believed her health had improved. 

Donnis has been airlifted back to Florida for further medical treatment.

Vincent Chiarella is pictured with his wife Donnis at Sandals in the Bahamas just days before he died and she was left seriously ill

Two men and a woman have died at the luxury Sandals resort in Exuma, in the Bahamas (pictured). Another woman, a wife of one of the deceased, was stricken with an illness and has since been airlifted to a hospital in Florida

Two men and a woman have died at the luxury Sandals resort in Exuma, in the Bahamas (pictured). Another woman, a wife of one of the deceased, was stricken with an illness and has since been airlifted to a hospital in Florida

Austin added: ‘I am just so heartbroken right now. My dad was everything to me.’ 

Steve Mulder told DailyMail.com his sister Donnis is in intensive care at a hospital in Miami and that she is covered in rashes.

Mulder said the family expects the results of Vincent’s autopsy to be released on Monday, but had heard air conditioning could have been to blame. 

‘When they got to the hotel, the air conditioner wasn’t working,’ he said. ‘They [staff] were working on it every day.’ 

The State Department is ‘closely monitoring’ the Bahamas police investigation. 

‘We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the cause of death,’ an official told USA Today. ‘We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the privacy of the families, we have nothing further to add at this time.’ 

Meanwhile, another vacationer has shared a dramatic account of what happened. 

‘Three of our neighbors in the building right next to us died and a fourth was airlifted in critical condition early yesterday,’ Chris Coucheron-Aamot, who is currently vacationing at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort in Exuma, wrote on Facebook.

A guest staying at the luxury Bahamas resort said Friday that a faulty air conditioner leaking toxic coolant may have been to blame for the tragedy

A guest staying at the luxury Bahamas resort said Friday that a faulty air conditioner leaking toxic coolant may have been to blame for the tragedy

The post from New Mexico man Chris Coucheron-Aamot (pictured), who was staying in the same complex of villas at the ritzy resort, came as it was revealed that at least three of the stricken guests - who stayed in separate villas - complained of illness to hotel staff the night before their bodies were discovered

The post from New Mexico man Chris Coucheron-Aamot (pictured), who was staying in the same complex of villas at the ritzy resort, came as it was revealed that at least three of the stricken guests – who stayed in separate villas – complained of illness to hotel staff the night before their bodies were discovered

The post, which seemed to be penned by Coucheron-Aamot’s partner, describes a crime scene at the resort’s luxury beachside villas where the bodies of the guests – all confirmed to be American – were discovered by hotel personnel in at least two separate villas.

What is Freon? The toxic chemical found in air conditioners 

Air conditioners commonly use a chemical called Freon, which can prove toxic if inhaled, as a refrigerant.

The chemical is a stable, nonflammable, moderately toxic gas that is tasteless and mostly odorless.

Signs of Freon exposure include irritation of the lungs, burns on the esophagus and irritation of the stomach. 

Skin lesions and tissue damage are also common symptoms of those experiencing Freon poisoning. 

Lung failure or death may occur with prolonged exposure to Freon.

Accidental poisoning from Freon, while rare, usually occurs in persons who work directly with cooling chemicals. 

Symptoms of mild to moderate Freon poisoning include: 

-headache 

-irritation of eyes, ears, and throat

-dizziness 

-vomiting 

-chemical burns 

-nausea 

-coughing 

Severe Freon poisoning symptoms include: 

-vomiting blood 

-breathing difficulties 

-loss of consciousness 

-bleeding or fluid buildup in the lungs

-seizures

-burning irregular heartbeat confusion coma or sudden death 

He added: ‘There was crime scene tape and security guards all around our unit,’ the post from Coucheron-Aamot, who was staying in the same villas as the stricken guests, reads.

In the post, Coucheron-Aamot – who said he was continuing his vacation at the resort despite the deaths – said: ‘It sounds like it may have been a fault with the a/c in the unit, causing a toxic coolant leak.

‘It was hard to sleep last night – every time the a/c came on, I woke up.

‘We’re continuing our vacation because that’s what I would want people to do if I were to have been one who died – celebrate my life by living yours to the fullest. That said, our hearts are with those who grieve. May God have mercy on them and us.’

Photos posted to Coucheron-Aamot’s page chronicle his and another man – presumed to be his partner’s stay at one of the ritzy resort’s villas – which charge up to $1,227 a night.

DailyMail.com reached out to Coucheron-Aamot Friday evening regarding the claims about the air conditioning units but did not immediately hear back.

Most air conditioners use a chemical called Freon as a coolant, a moderately toxic gas that is tasteless and mostly odorless, and that can prove deadly if inhaled over a prolonged period of time.

Coucheron-Aamot’s claims come as police continue to investigate the deaths of the three American guests – two of whom complained of illness to hotel staff the previous evening.

Hotel staff found Vincent’s body shortly after 9am Friday in a villa, police said in their statement.

Officers at the George Town Police Station arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, where they were notified by hotel staff that another two guests – the couple – had been been found unresponsive in another villa.

Police entered the first villa to find Vincent lying on the ground with no signs of trauma, authorities said. The local doctor pronounced him dead at the scene. 

Speaking about the second couple, New Providence police said: ‘Our initial investigations revealed that the couple found in the second villa complained of illness the previous evening.

‘They attended the local medical facility and on completion of receiving treatment, they returned to their lodging.’

The unidentified man was found slumped against a wall in a bathroom and the woman on a bed, the Royal Bahamas Police Force said in a statement. ‘Both individuals showed signs of convulsion.’

They added that no signs of trauma were found on either bodies.

Donnis was airlifted to a hospital in the capital city Nassau Friday morning, Exuma MP and Minister of Tourism Chester Cooper said. 

She has since been airlifted to Kendall Regional facility in Florida, her son, Austin, who learned of his parents’ deaths after receiving a call from the US Embassy Friday night, told ABC.

After speaking to his mother, Austin detailed to the outlet how she had found her husband Friday morning unresponsive on the floor.

She told her son she had fallen ill on Thursday but ‘thought she was alright’ after visiting the clinic, he said.

In a statement to DailyMail.com Friday, a Sandals spokesperson said they were cooperating with police’s investigation. The rep did not address inquiries regarding claims over the reportedly faulty air conditioning unit. 

‘Nothing is more important to Sandals Resorts than the safety of our guests,’ the rep wrote in an emailed statement.

‘A health emergency was initially reported and following our protocols we immediately alerted emergency medical professionals and relevant local authorities. 

‘We are actively working to support both the investigation as well as the guests’ families in every way possible during this difficult time. Out of respect for the privacy of our guests, we cannot disclose further information at this time.’ 

Cooper said in a statement: ‘I have been regretfully informed today of the death of three American visitors, two men, and a woman, at a resort property on Exuma.

‘Another American woman has been airlifted to Princess Margaret Hospital.

‘I have been briefed by the commissioner of police and the resort’s executive management on the matter. I am currently in Eleuthera on ministerial business.

‘As I am acting in the capacity of prime minister, I have briefed Prime Minister Davis on the matter.

He continued: ‘Police are investigating and the cause of death is still unknown.

‘However, I am advised that foul play is not suspected. I have asked Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Michael Darville to lead a delegation this evening to Exuma of Health and Wellness, Environment and Public Works officials.

A fourth American, a woman, was airlifted to Princess Margaret Hospital (pictured) in the capital city Nassau, according to Exuma MP and Minister of Tourism Chester Cooper

A fourth American, a woman, was airlifted to Princess Margaret Hospital (pictured) in the capital city Nassau, according to Exuma MP and Minister of Tourism Chester Cooper

He added: ‘The public will be kept abreast of information as soon as it becomes available. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the families affected.’

The luxurious five-star adults-only resort is all inclusive and sits in a secluded area within 500 acres of tropical land.

It has a mile-long beach, three pools, 11 restaurants and an award-winning golf course.

Guests are free to take part in day and night tennis, beach volleyball and basketball, paddle boarding, snorkelling, and even offer free weddings to people staying for three nights or longer.



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