MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – An East Tennessee couple found dead in the Bahamas ran a travel agency in Maryville that worked with the Caribbean vacation company which ran the resort where they were found dead.
Robbie Phillips, 65, and her husband Michael Phillips, 68, of Maryville, Tennessee and Vincent Paul Chiarella, 64, of Florida died over the weekend at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort on Exuma. Chiarella’s wife, Donnis, was airlifted to a hospital in Florida and remains in serious condition. Samples taken from the deceased have been sent to a Philadelphia laboratory for analysis.
According to the business’ website, the couple owned a Maryville-based Travel Agency called, “The Sand Lady from Royal Travel.” It states the company has over 20 years of experience planning destination getaways in the Caribbean and across the world.
The site says the couple have three children and six grandchildren.
“Our hearts are grieving and broken but full of hope. 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. Thank you for respecting our family’s privacy at this time.”
Phillips family statement to ABC News
Multiple awards and accreditations from the Sandals Travel Agency Recognition Awards are listed on their website. Robbie Phillips is listed as a Certified Sandals Specialist, a Preferred Sandals agent, a Certified Sandals WeddingMoons Specialists, and a member of the elite Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club, an elite group of top Sandals agents.
A May 5 Facebook post from the resort purportedly posted by Robbie Phillips said, “If you want the most beautiful long private beach with clear blue water and you like to hear the waves lapping, see sand dunes and hear the sea gulls talking – this is it! RELAXING The Greg Norman golf course is a bonus.”
The couple was found dead on Friday, May 6. Bahamas Minister of Health & Wellness Dr. Michael Darville told ABC News that some hotel guests went to a clinic Thursday with nausea and vomiting, were treated and left.
ABC reported that resort staff contacted George Town Police Station shortly after 9 a.m. Friday for a man found unresponsive in a villa. While en route it was reported that another man and woman were found unresponsive in another villa, police said.
Police found the man in the first villa lying on the ground with no signs of trauma, authorities said. In the second villa, the man was found “slumped against a wall in a bathroom” and the woman was found on a bed, the Royal Bahamas Police Force said in a statement.
“Both individuals showed signs of convulsion,” police said. No signs of trauma were found on either body.
“We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the cause of death,” a Department of State spokesperson told ABC News. “We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the privacy of the families, we have nothing further to add at this time.”
Autopsy results have been sent to a lab in the United States to expedite results and help authorities understand what happened, officials said Monday.
The police commissioner of the Bahamas, Paul Rolle, said officials also collected samples from the rooms where the tourists were staying and the surrounding property to determine whether any contaminants were present.
“We really want to know what caused this,” he said.
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