Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is calling on the State Department to look into a series of unsolved incidents involving tainted alcoholic drinks at resorts in Mexico, including one in the tourist hotspot of Playa Del Carmen that left a 20-year-old woman dead.
Johnson sent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a letter Wednesday asking the department to “do everything in its power to obtain information from the Mexican government” about the death of Abbey Conner, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater student found floating face down in a hotel pool in January.
Abbey Conner died hours into a family vacation after drinking with her brother, Austin, at the pool bar of the Iberostar Paraiso del Mar. Austin, 22, survived but suffered a severe concussion and remembers nothing of the events leading up to his sister’s death.
According to an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Conners incident matched the experiences of more than 60 people who blacked out after drinking limited amounts of alcohol at Mexican resorts. Some of the tourists were sexually assaulted or robbed while passed out, and several people told the Journal-Sentinel that loved ones had drowned in mysterious circumstances similar to Abbey Conner’s.
In response to the spate of alcohol-related accidents, Mexican authorities raided 31 resorts, restaurants and nightclubs in Cancun and Playa del Carmen earlier in August. The KuKulka lobby bar at the Iberostar Paraiso Maya was one of two clubs suspended for serving “unlabeled” alcohol. Regulators also seized 10,000 gallons of illicit alcohol from a alcohol from the company that was providing booze to local hotspots.
Despite the discovery of potentially unsafe alcohol, Mexican officials have classified Abby Conner’s death and other incidents as “accidental.” Johnson says that was also the conclusion the Mexican embassy offered representatives in Washington when they meet with his staff earlier this month.
Johnson told Tillerson he was concerned about a “lack of transparency” on the part of hotel staff and Mexican authorities, and asked the State Department to turn over its communications with Mexican authorities about the case.