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Steve Harvey's Sand & Soul Fest Is Moving out of Dominican Republic after Tourist Deaths

Aby Rivas
Jun 23, 2019
06:33 A.M.
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Steve Harvey’s third annual “Sand and Soul Festival” was set to be celebrated in an all-inclusive resort at the Dominican Republic. But as concerns about the death of American tourists in the Caribbean country arise, the comedian has decided to move the fest to a different destination.

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The “Sand and Soul Festival,” hosted by Steve Harvey, offers its guests a unique experience filled with the luxury of a tropical resort plus a wide arrange of entertainment provided not only by Harvey but also by his celebrity friends like Ginuwine, Lisa Raye, Anthony Hamilton, and several other comedians and musicians.

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CHANGING LOCATION FOR SAFETY REASONS

This year, the festival was set to take place at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, in October. However, after the deaths of nine US tourists in the Dominican Republic in the past year, and the growing concern about the safety of US citizens in the country, Harvey has decided to switch the locations.

An email sent to customers from Morgan Hawthorne—Steve’s daughter and executive producer of the event—and duplicated by INSIDER, read:

“There has been a lot of negative media in the recent weeks surrounding the Dominican Republic and its safety for tourists to travel. We want you to know that higher than anything, we regard your safety as most important. This is why it has been an easy decision for us to move the Sand & Soul Festival out of the Dominican Republic this year.”

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The email also asked costumers to wait until next week for the disclosure of the new location, as the production team finishes the details. And concluded, "At this time our main concern was to give you peace of mind that the Dominican Republic is no longer a part of the 2019 Sand & Soul experience."

As of Friday, the official webpage of the event still lists Punta Cana as the destination.

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DEATHS AT THE HARD ROCK RESORT

It seems like the decision to move the festival was being carefully considered by Harvey because last week, organizers of the event previously told INSIDER that they were waiting on the official report of the deaths of David Harrison and Robert Bell Wallace, who both died while staying at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

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Harrison, 45, of southern Maryland, died last July when he suddenly fell ill while vacationing at the hotel; and Wallace, 67, of California, became sick after he had a drink from the room minibar. He was initially taken to the hospital and died three days later on April 14.

Aside from Harrison and Wallace, the deaths of seven more US tourists from similar circumstances have been reported in the past year.

REPORTED DEATHS

Miranda Schaup-Werner, of Pennsylvania, died in May after she had a drink from the minibar at her room in another hotel, the Bahia Principe La Romana.

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A few days later, Edward Holmes, 63, and Cynthia Day, 49, from Prince George’s County, died in their room at the same hotel. A hotel employee found them when they failed to do their check out.

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Joseph Allen, 55, from New Jersey died in his room at the Terra Linda Resort in Sosua on June 10, just a few days after Leyla Cox, 53, died in her hotel room at Excellence Resorts in Punta Cana.

Yvette Monique Sport, 51, was visiting the popular the country last June, had a drink, went to bed, and never woke up. Her cause of death was ruled as a heart attack.

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Mark Hurlbut Sr., died last June in Punta Cana while vacationing with his wife. His death was also ruled as a heart attack, but his family believes there was foul play involved.

MEASURES TAKEN

The families of all the affected have asked authorities in the US and the Dominican Republic for an investigation on the eerily similar deaths.

However, the Tourism minister of the country, Francisco Javier García, said the deaths are “isolated accidents.”

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On the other hand, the FBI confirmed they’re collaborating with local authorities in the investigation of the deaths, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has conducted tests at some of the hotels.

The Dominican Republic has a “level 2” travel warning on the State Department's page, as officials warn travelers to “exercise increased caution” if traveling to the island.

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