When visiting an all-inclusive resort in sunny Mexico, everyone expects to have a fun, safe trip, with the only ailments they come back with being a sunburn here or there. That’s what the Conner-McGowan family thought when they visited the Iberostar Hotel & Resorts Paraiso del Mar. Instead, their vacation took a turn for the worse, ending with both their children hospitalized and the death of their daughter. (1) It’s now suspected that they fell victim to a string of Mexican resort staff drugging tourists.
The Conner-McGowan Family’s Story
Abbey, 20 and Austin Conner, 22, were on vacation with their mother and stepfather, Ginny and John McGowan, where they were celebrating the end of their college exams. (1)
At about 5:30 pm, Austin and Abbey were hanging out at the swim up bar in the pool before meeting their parents for dinner, having a few celebratory tequila shots. When they didn’t show up for dinner at 7 pm, Ginny asked the hotel to call her kids’ room. Instead, she was informed by the hotel manager that they had been rushed to a nearby hospital. (1)
While Austin suffered an injury to his forehead and a severe concussion, Abbey was brain dead and on life support with a broken collarbone. The last thing Austin remembers was he and his sister taking a few shots of tequila together and one with a group of people, then he woke up in an ambulance. (1)
The family has received little answers as to what actually happened that day, and has spent thousands of dollars on hospital fees and medical care. As it turns out, their case is not entirely unique. (1)
Other Reports of Druggings and Blackouts from Resort Go-ers
Maureen Webster’s 22-year-old son drowned in the pool at a Mexican resort 10 years ago under similarly mysterious circumstances. Karen Smith’s son Brian Manucci suffered the same fate in 2013. (1)
Other stories have also come out of vacationers who have woken up in hospital with extremely high blood alcohol content despite only having one or two drinks and having been well hydrated throughout the day, some at the same resort (Iberostar), others from resorts nearby. One couple reports both of them blacking out with the husband waking up with a broken hand and the wife sexually assaulted in 2015, teenage brothers from Minnesota report waking up shirt and shoeless in the mud with their phones and wallets taken. Nearly all cases of mysterious blackouts, sickness, and injuries have questions of extortion surrounding them. These families are gouged by local hospitals, who have connections with the resorts. (1)
Many of these incidences happen within the first couple days of vacation, so not only do the families pay large sums of money to the hospitals and medical centers, but they also leave early without a refund from the resort. (1)
You can read more stories from tourists who experienced sudden blackouts while vacationing in Mexico here.
What is causing these mysterious assaults and deaths?
Many resort staff are quick to blame the tourists, saying that they got too drunk on their own accord. Abbey Conner’s Family’s attorney questions the quality and legitimacy of the alcohol being served. He fears that the resorts are using poor quality, bootlegged booze that doesn’t comply with standards to cut costs. Many of the victims and victims family members believe it’s a worse situation than just bad alcohol. (1)
The victims and families of those lost to these mysterious incidences want justice for themselves and their loved ones, and for the American Government to investigate these happenings to get to the bottom of what’s really happening at these resorts. No one else should have to be assaulted, robbed, injured, extorted, or killed while on vacation because of inside criminal activity. (1)
How to Stay Safe on Vacation
If you have a vacation planned in Mexico with your friends or family coming up, there are a few things you can do to ensure the safety of yourself and your travel companions.
1. Choosing your resort: How to Assess the Safety of a Hotel
There are a few things you should look for when you are deciding on how safe your hotel is. You can find out some of these things by calling the hotel, your travel agent or reading reviews online. For some of the other items listed below, you may only be able to assess them properly once you’re at the hotel. If you see these warning signs, consider transferring to another hotel.
Below are some criteria to pay attention to: (2)
- The type of security used
- Employee training
- Security procedures
- The level and types of crime in the neighborhood of your hotel
- Whether outside doors lock and are in good condition
- Graffiti, garbage, and debris such as needle caps, condoms, and wrappers
- How easy it is to access help should you need it
- Proximity of the hotel to the local population
- Security gates at all entrances staffed by guards who ask pointed questions to all before entering
- The number of (or lack of) working security cameras
- Number of security personnel
- Lighting of hotel grounds, watch for dark, unlit areas
2. Drink Safety Tips
Of course while on vacation you like to relax and enjoy a few drinks by the pool. There are a few things you can do to ensure that you and your companions drink safely: (2)
- Always watch your drink while it is being made
- Don’t take your eyes off of your drink; If you set it down somewhere, get a new one
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers, even other vacationers
- As best you can, stick to drinks from bottles or cans, and watch while the bar tender opens them
- Never drink on an empty stomach
- Drink water along with your alcoholic beverages
- Know your limits and keep track of how many drinks you’ve had and how you are feeling
- If you start to feel strange or ill, seek help immediately
3. Other Disaster Prevention Tips
Keeping safe is not just an individual effort, but a group effort as well. Here are a few things you can do so everyone enjoys a safe, happy holiday: (2)
- Keep a close eye on your family and friends: If you notice them acting strange or if they are in distress, seek help immediately
- Don’t allow anyone to wander off on their own, and don’t go anywhere alone yourself
- Stick to bars and restaurants on the resort or with your tourist group
- Report any suspicious persons to hotel staff and security
- If you see another tourist alone in a state of distress, get help right away
Vacations should be fun and relaxing. By taking the right steps to ensure you are safe at all times, you ensure that your holiday will be full of happy memories.
Share this story to bring this issue to light and to warn your loved ones to be extra careful while on vacation.
(1) T. (2017, July 21). Resorts in Mexico suspected of drugging tourists. Retrieved August 09, 2017, from http://www.wfaa.com/news/health/resorts-in-mexico-suspected-of-drugging-tourists/458170922
(2) Gollom, M. (2012, March 07). How safe are you at a Mexican resort? Retrieved August 09, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/how-safe-are-you-at-a-mexican-resort-1.1182825
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