Seven months ago, Abbey Conner, her older brother, Austin Conner, their mom, Ginny McGowan, and their stepfather, John McGowan, traveled to Iberostar Hotels & Resorts’ Paraiso del Mar for a winter family vacation.
Within hours of being at the resort, Austin and Abbey were found passed out in one of the resort pools after taking shots with a group of people they didn’t know.
While Austin was able to recover, Abbey was declared brain dead and later passed away.
Austin still can’t remember what happened after taking that final shot of alcohol.
Since Abbey’s story was made public, a handful of other people who vacationed at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico has come forward to talk about their similar experiences, which have included blacking out after drinking a minimal amount of alcohol.
Months after Abbey’s death, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation has alleged that multiple resorts in Mexico may be serving an excessive amount of alcohol that is “bad quality.”
Abbey’s family, who has filed a lawsuit against Paraiso del Mar, spoke out for the first time on “Good Morning America” this week. Of the vacation, Ginny said:
“The most excited person was Abbey.”
She added that she had done everything to protect her, but it still ended tragically:
“You protect your child from so much since they’re born, and then it happens in an instant. She was on the right path, a good path for her. She was happy.”
Brother Austin recalled the day. He told “Good Morning America” that it’s possible they could have drunk too much, but he doesn’t believe that was the case:
“I’ve thought about it, and, I mean, it is possibility [we drank too much], but how — if we’re in a group of people — do two people at the same exact time just pass out in the pool and no one sees it?”
According to ABC, Mexican officials revealed they seized 1.4 million gallons of tainted alcohol from businesses such as “resorts, clubs, bars and warehouses” over the last seven years.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 26, 2017
However, the specific resort where Abbey spent her final hours denies being one of the vacation spots that serves contaminated alcohol.
As a result of the investigation, USA Today is reporting that the U.S. State Department has issued a warning about the dangers of tainted alcohol to travelers planning to visit Mexico. The warning reads, in part:
There have been allegations that consumption of tainted or substandard alcohol has resulted in illness or blacking out. If you choose to drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill.
The warning also alerted travelers to unethical business practices at medical establishments in Mexico, an issue Abbey’s family dealt with while they were there:
U.S. citizens have lodged a large number of complaints about unethical business practices, prices, and collection measures against some of the private hospitals in Cancun, the Maya Riviera, and Cabo San Lucas. Travellers should make efforts to obtain complete information on billing, pricing, and proposed medical procedures before agreeing to any medical care in these locations.
In an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the State Department said:
The safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas is one of our highest priorities. Following these reports and in consultation with our Posts in Mexico, we updated our Country Specific Information for Mexico to provide updated safety information regarding potentially tainted alcohol.
As for Abbey’s family, they are just trying to cope.@GMA/Twitter
Ginny told “Good Morning America” that she misses Abbey and hopes her daughter didn’t suffer in those final moments. She prays that she’s now at peace.
Austin admitted that if he could say one last thing to his little sister, it would be to thank her for always standing by his side because he “wouldn’t have been able to do it without her.”