'Our hearts are grieving': What we know about the Americans who died at a Bahamas resort

·3 min read

Family of the three Americans who died while vacationing at a Sandals resort in the Bahamas were mourning their loved ones and sharing details about the couples who fell sick.

The couple from Tennessee who died, Michael and Robbie Phillips, were owners of a travel agency based in Maryville, Tennessee, and had three children and six grandchildren, according to a website for their company.

"Our hearts are grieving and broken but full of hope," their daughter, Kali Hanson, told Knox News, part of the USA TODAY Network, on Monday afternoon. "We know our mom and dad are experiencing fullness of joy in our heavenly father's presence. We already miss them terribly. Our parents left a legacy of faith in Jesus and generously loved their family and friends."

Michael and Robbie Phillips, seen here posing for a picture, were owners of a travel agency based in Maryville, Tennessee, and had three children and six grandchildren.
Michael and Robbie Phillips, seen here posing for a picture, were owners of a travel agency based in Maryville, Tennessee, and had three children and six grandchildren.

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Authorities on Tuesday identified the Phillipses and Vincent Paul Chiarella, 64, of Florida, as the three Americans who died last week at the Emerald Bay Sandals Resort in Great Exuma. Chiarella's wife was hospitalized in the Bahamas and later airlifted to Florida hospital in serious condition, said Paul Rolle, Bahamas Commissioner of Police, on Monday.

Their son told ABC News that the couple was vacationing in the Bahamas to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

"I am just so heartbroken right now," Austin Chiarella told ABC News. "My dad was everything to me."

Austin Chiarella said he was able to speak with his mother Saturday morning, who described to him how her legs and arms swelled up as she yelled for help from the floor of her villa.

The Panama City News Herald, part of the USA TODAY Network, reached out to Austin Chiarella for comment.

Michael Phillips, 68, and Robbie Phillips, 65, lived in Maryville, Tennessee, and owned the Sand Lady, a "travel design" business specializing in Caribbean honeymoons, destination weddings and romantic getaways. The Sand Lady is a "preferred Sandals resorts agency," according to its website, and Robbie Phillips had posted photos on Facebook from the resort shortly before her death.

Hanson declined to comment further and asked for privacy.

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The cause of their deaths is still unknown, but police do not suspect foul play. Autopsies were being performed, Rolle said Monday.

The deaths come three years after more than 20 people died while vacationing in Costa Rica due to tainted alcohol and ten American tourists died in the Dominican Republic, leading the country to elevate safety regulations and enforce food and drink inspections.

In 2015, a Delaware family was sickened at a resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands by methyl bromide, a highly toxic pesticide banned for indoor residential use in 1984, used at the resort several times.

Both couples who died in the Bahamas had complained of feeling ill the night before they died and had sought medical treatment, Rolle said.

Meanwhile, results were pending from a Philadelphia lab, where samples were sent from the bodies, rooms and nearby areas.

“We really want to know what caused this,” Rolle said Monday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Sandals Bahamas resort deaths: Autopsies underway; families speak out

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