Autopsies in progress; families speak out

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

The deceased Tennessee couple, Michael and Robbie Phillips, owned 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 hopeful,” their daughter, Kali Hanson, told Knox News, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, Monday afternoon. “We know that our Mom and Dad experience a fullness of joy in the presence of our Heavenly Father. We already miss them terribly. Our parents left a legacy of faith in Jesus and generously loved their family and friends.”

IDENTIFIED AMERICANS:The tourists had sought treatment the previous night

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

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

“I’m so heartbroken right now,” Austin Chiarella told ABC News. “My father was everything to me.”

Austin Chiarella said he was able to speak with his mother on Saturday morning, who described how her legs and arms swelled up as she screamed 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 Sand Lady, a “travel design” company specializing in honeymoons, destination weddings and getaways romance in the Caribbean. The Sand Lady is a “Favorite Sandals Resort”, according to its website, and Robbie Phillips had posted photos on Facebook of the resort shortly before his death.

Hanson declined to comment further and requested confidentiality.

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Their cause of death is still unknown, but police do not suspect foul play. Autopsies were underway, Rolle said Monday.

Both couples had complained of feeling ill the day before they died and sought medical treatment, Rolle said.

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

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

USA Today

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