The scene at the swim-up bar at the Mexican resort where Abbey Conner was pulled lifeless from the pool in January was full of innocent tourists when an attorney hired by Conner’s family showed up.
"It wasn’t surprising. It was a typical scene at an all-inclusive five-star resort where foreigners from both sides of the equator flock to escape their cold winters."
But as he watched, the attorney noticed something disturbing.
“They serve alcoholic drinks with alcohol of bad quality and in great amounts, mixing different types of drinks,” he wrote in his native Spanish.
The police in Mexico insisted Abbey suffered an “accidental drowning” on the night of the incident, but her family was never convinced - and now a report from the family’s attorney's report only appears to confirm their suspicions.
The particular hotel where the Conner incident occurred is called Iberostar Hotel & Resorts' Paraiso del Mar.
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But is this an isolated incident? Authorities and experts think not.
A recent report from Mexico’s “Tax Administration Service” concluded 43 percent of alcohol consumed in Mexico is illegal.
Much of the illegal spirits are bootleg liquor either infused with grain alcohol or having dangerous concentrations of methanol.
Since 2010, the government has seized 1.4 million gallons of illegal alcohol, most of which came from popular tourist hotels.
News of the possibly tainted alcohol ignited across social media, even the comments on WFAA’s Facebook page are some viewers sharing similar stories about their experience at resorts in Mexico.
One viewer said she can’t remember some of what happened one night on vacation after she had a drink. Another said one minute she was hanging out at the pool bar, the next she was back in her room unable to remember much. A different viewer said her son thought he was having a heart attack after having a couple drinks.
At least two blog postings from other travelers who visited Iberostar’s nearby sister resorts in Playa del Carmen in the last two years report eerily similar incidents, though nobody died.
In one incident, a married couple celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary were sitting on the beach at Iberostar Paraiso Maya, in the same group of resorts where the del Mar is, in January 2015. The woman said she ordered two mojitos from the bar. Her husband had three beers.
They were talking to a couple who said they were from Oregon. They all ordered another drink and within a few minutes she began seeing black spots and told her husband something wasn’t right. Then she blacked out. She recalls being on the bathroom floor, vomiting and feeling like she was dying.
The next thing either of them remembers is waking up in their hotel room, almost five hours later. Her husband’s hand was broken. Neither had any idea what happened. Their belongings were still on the beach. They had not been robbed.
“I felt as if I had just been violated gravely but did not know how and by who,” she wrote in a post on her blog. “I knew we came close to something evil, we were grateful to be alive, but filled with fear not knowing who did this to us.”
These are just a few incidents that were widely reported. If these people are not being drugged and robbed for their belongings, clearly, there is something off in what they drank.
Until the Mexican authorities do something about this, horrific, life threatening incidents like these will not only claim innocent lives, but severely damage Mexico's tourism industry of which it is heavily reliant.
A 2015 report from Mexico’s Tax Administration Service found that 43% of all the alcohol consumed in the nation is illegal, produced under unregulated circumstances resulting in potentially dangerous concoctions.
The national health authority in Mexico has seized more than 1.4 million gallons of adulterated alcohol since 2010 — not just from small local establishments, but from hotels and other entertainment areas, according to a 2017 report by the country's Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks.
The bootleg liquor could be infused with grain alcohol or dangerous concentrations of methanol, cheaper alternatives to producing ethanol, government reports warn.
And the mixtures are capable of making people extremely sick.
The blackouts have happened to men and women, young and old, to singles and to couples, according to interviews with nearly a dozen travelers and family members whose loved ones died or were injured at the resorts, as well as hospital records, ambulance receipts, hotel correspondence and other documents.
While I have not experienced this in my many trips to Mexico, I can tell you I've heard more than a few tales of things like this happening. Usually people chalk it up to 'This is just Mexico being Mexico', as if it's OK to be lawless and 'wild west' on its people and tourists.
I think Mexico has enough problems and they need to crack down on this in a major way. Hit the hotels where it hurts, in the wallet.
If Mexico's tourism disappears, then what will they have left?