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 that 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 in Exuma. Chiarella’s wife, Donnis, was airlifted to a hospital in Florida and remains in serious condition.
According to the company’s website, the couple owned a Maryville-based travel agency called “The Sand Lady from Royal Travel.” She claims that the company has more than 20 years of experience planning getaways to destinations in the Caribbean and around the world.
The site says the couple has three children and six grandchildren.
“Our hearts are heavy and broken but full of hope. We know that our mom and dad are experiencing 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 lavishly loved his 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 Sandals Certified Specialist, Sandals Preferred Agent, Sandals WeddingMoons Certified Specialist, and a member of the Sandals President’s Royal Club, an elite group of top Sandals agents.
A May 5 Facebook post from the resort allegedly posted by Robbie Phillips read, “If you want the most beautiful long private beach with clear blue water and you like to hear the waves crashing, see sand dunes and hear the seagulls talk, this is it! RELAXING Greg Norman golf course is a bonus.”
The couple was found dead on Friday, May 6. Bahamas Health and Welfare Minister 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 the George Town Police Station shortly after 9 a.m. Friday about a man found unconscious in a villa. Along the way, another man and woman were reportedly found unconscious in another village, 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 in a bed, the Royal Bahamas Police Force said in a statement.
“Both individuals showed signs of seizures,” police said. No signs of trauma were found on any of the bodies.
“We are closely following the investigation by local authorities into the cause of death,” a State Department spokesperson told ABC News. “We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect for the families’ privacy, we have nothing further to add at this time.”
Autopsy results have been sent to a laboratory in the United States to speed up results and help authorities understand what happened, officials said Monday.
Bahamian Police Commissioner Paul Rolle said officials also collected samples from rooms where tourists were staying and surrounding property to determine if any contaminants were present.
“We really want to know what caused this,” he said.
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