In December 2016, 20-year-old Abbey Connor was found unconscious in a pool while on vacation with her family in Mexico.
According to earlier reports, Abbey and her older brother Austin had just arrived at the Iberostar Hotel & Resorts’ Paraiso del Mar with their mom and stepfather when they decided to break away and do their own thing.
While their mom Ginny and stepfather John McGowan walked along the beach, Abbey and Austin spent their free time by the pool, celebrating the end of the semester with a few drinks from the bar.
Later that afternoon, Ginny and John joined the kids by the pool to spend a few hours together as a family. Around 5:45 p.m., Ginny and John retreated back to their room to get ready for dinner. They told Abbey and Austin to meet them in the lobby at seven.
When Abbey and Austin didn’t show up, their parents asked the front desk to page their room. That’s when they were told both Abbey and Austin were on their way to a hospital 12 miles from the resort.
The last thing Austin remembers was taking a shot with a group of men they met at the bar. The next thing he knew, he was waking up in an ambulance.
The siblings had reportedly been found face down in a swimming pool by a woman walking by.
Austin admitted that he didn’t feel drunk before passing out, adding that they only had about four or five shots of tequila beforehand. He believes they were drugged:
“I’ve been in college for five years and had my fair share of drinks before. No way in hell I’m putting my face down in a pool and going to sleep. Knowing that we got played or are victims of some sick person drugging us is almost surreal.”
While Austin was able to fully recover, Abbey was placed in a coma before being declared brain dead.
For seven months, the family fought for answers as to why this happened to their daughter. When their attorney Florentino Ramirez received the official report describing the investigation, he described it as “convenient.”
Ramirez explained that it didn’t contain statements from potentially key witnesses, including the bartender, hotel guests, and the woman who found Austin and Abbey, and it didn’t provide any key details from the medical clinic.
The only statements recorded in the documents were from three employees, two security guards, and the pool manager, who didn’t see Abbey or Austin until they were in the pool.
Now, according to a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Abbey’s family may be getting the answers they’ve been searching for.
As part of his own investigation, last month, Ramirez visited the same swim up bar visited by Austin and Abbey. What he found was “disturbing”:
“They serve alcoholic drinks with alcohol of bad quality and in great amounts, mixing different types of drinks.”
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Abbey and Austin haven’t been the only people to visit an all-inclusive resort in Mexico and experience “sickness, blackouts, and injuries after drinking.”
Many of those who talked with the publication said they had the same questions the next day as Austin: how could they have fallen drunk so quickly and were they drunk?
The Journal Sentinel further revealed that much of the alcohol consumed in Mexico is illegal. The publication reports:
A 2015 report from Mexico’s Tax Administration Service found that 43 percent 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.
In fact, most of the tourists who had a similar experience to Austin’s claimed that they were drinking tequila before blacking out. Some claimed to only have had as few as one or two drinks.
They, like Abbey’s parents, were also dismissed when they attempted to report what happened.
However, spokesperson for an Iberostar resort told Journal Sentinel that the resort refutes these claims. The spokesperson said that they take the safety of their guests very seriously:
“We work with a host of providers not unique to IBEROSTAR who service other hotel chains and renowned brands. Similarly, we only purchase sealed bottles that satisfy all standards required by the designated regulatory authorities.”
Whether Ramirez’s findings will help bring to light more information regarding Abbey’s death is not yet known.