At least two New Jersey residents, including the celebrity brother of a reality TV star, have died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, adding to a growing list of U.S. tourist deaths in the Caribbean island.

In the past year, nine Americans have been reported dead in the Dominican Republic. The deaths, which have few apparent connections other than that they were sudden and took place in resorts, have fueled fears about travel to country.

The latest death was of Joseph Allen III, from the Avenel section of Woodbridge, who was found dead in his hotel room on June 13. An autopsy done in the Dominican Republic revealed that he had suffered a heart attack at age 55, embassy officials said this week.

His brother, however, has said that Allen was in good health and the family wanted a second autopsy.

And the brother of TV real estate celebrity Barbara Corcoran died from a heart attack while on vacation in April. Corcoran said her brother John, who owned a roofing and siding company in Edgewater, had "an existing heart condition."

The victims had been staying at various hotels and many died from heart attacks or fluid in the lungs. At least two of the victims got sick after drinking from their hotels' minibars, according to published reports.

The U.S. State Department this month confirmed that the Dominican Republic has asked the FBI to help with toxicology analysis.

"The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo is actively working with the Government of the Dominican Republic and the private sector at the highest levels to ensure that U.S. citizens are safe and feel safe while in the Dominican Republic," the Embassy said on June 11.

In April, the State Department issued a travel advisory asking tourists to "exercise increased caution in the Dominican Republic due to crime."

Allen's brother wrote on Facebook that on the night before his death, Allen had developed a fever and decided to stay in his room after taking a cool shower that had seemed to make him feel better. The next morning, when Allen's friends hadn't heard from him, they got concerned and called hotel staff to check his room. Allen's son learned of his father's death after arriving on the island for a planned Father's Day celebration.

Jason Allen said his brother was "very healthy — in fact, he had just had a physical before his trip that showed him to be in very good shape with no issues."

He said the family wanted an independent autopsy conducted in the United States.

"We have concerns about the Dominican government agencies involved and their willingness and/or capacity to investigate this situation properly," he said.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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